Lady Vols; Kaiya Wynn makes final call on future’….

Lady Vols; Kaiya Wynn makes final call on future’….

Kaiya Wynn, a five-star guard in the Class of 2024 from Nashville, announced her commitment to Tennessee women’s basketball on Thursday.

The 5-foot-10 Ensworth standout is the Lady Vols’ second known commitment for 2024, joining five-star forward Karoline Striplin. Wynn is the No. 9 overall guard and No. 23 player nationally, according to the espnW HoopGurlz rankings.

She is also the top-ranked player in Tennessee.

“Excited and blessed to announce that I have committed to the University of Tennessee GO VOLS!!” Wynn wrote on Twitter.

As a junior, Wynn was a finalist for Division II-AA Miss Basketball and was named to the TSWA Division II-AA all-state team.

She averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 steals, leading Ensworth to a DII-AA state title victory over Brentwood Academy.

Although Jasmine Powell started against Liberty, Kaiya Wynn got more minutes and was able to use them effectively.

Her strong play will have to continue for the Lady Vols (7-5) to have success in their SEC opener against Auburn (11-2).

“I thought her decision-making against Liberty was excellent,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “I thought she knew exactly when to push the pace, knew exactly when to pull it out. I thought she finished well. She guarded well. She looked in control the entire game, so that was really good for us to see.”

In her 25 minutes, Wynn scored 12 points and earned a team-high seven assists while not making a single turnover. Along with Karoline Striplin and Tess Darby, she was one of three Lady Vols to shoot better than 50% from the field.

However, this is nothing new for Wynn. She has been performing at a high level all season in the backup position to Powell.

“She’s a huge piece of what we’re doing right now,” Harper said. “Jasmine Powell is not going to be able to play 40 minutes and be able to handle the best offensive player and handle the ball handling without some relief.

“That’s where Kaiya can come in, and whether it’s handling the ball a little bit on the offensive end, taking some of the load off defensively, and she’s rebounding well. I think that’s important too. She’s really critical to what we’re doing right now.”

With Destinee Wells out for the season with a lower leg injury, Wynn’s presence became much more important for Tennessee. Prior to Wells going down, Wynn played in a much more limited role. In her new spot, she has proved she can handle an increase of minutes, which will continue into SEC play.

A look at the Tigers

Auburn will enter Neville Arena on Thursday with an eight-game winning streak, including wins over Clemson and Washington State. As a whole, the Tigers have made large improvements since last year’s WNIT campaign.

“I think Auburn is better,” Harper said. “I think they’re really good. They’re coming off eight wins in a row. This is a huge challenge to start the season.”

Even though the Tigers sit 11th in the SEC in points scored, they have been able to win games through their defense. Auburn only allows 52.8 points per game, a mark good for fourth in the conference.

“They’re known for their defense,” Harper said. “They get after you defensively. They don’t make things easy for you.”

Meanwhile, Auburn’s offense has been making progress. In their last game against North Alabama, the Tigers scored 79 points, their third highest total of the season. If the Lady Vols let up defensively at all, Auburn’s offense can pose problems.

“I think also right now their offense is clicking,” Harper said. “They do a nice job of finding where the ball needs to go each possession. They look really good on film.”

Avery Strickland’s status

Avery Strickland has only played four games this season due to two separate stints in concussion protocol. In those games, Strickland has averaged eight minutes and has scored four total points, with all four coming against Ohio State.

Strickland has been making substantial progress, but Harper cannot say when she will return.

“We’re working her back into practice now, so that’s really exciting,” Harper said. “We have got to be smart in making sure that we’re bringing her along to find success. We’ll evaluate how our practices are going and how the games are flowing to see when she’ll be able to play.”

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