Suspension Report; lady vols Tamari Key was suspended due to……….more

There’s too many unknowns for that as the Tennessee senior center comes back after dealing with blood clots in her lungs, Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper said Thursday.

“We are just trying to be mindful of her body as she gets back into playing and just trying to be patient and allow her to help guide us with how she is feeling,” Harper said.

Key is back for the Lady Vols for a fifth season, but she isn’t totally back in action as the team goes through preseason practices. That is a process Harper and the Tennessee medical staff continue to work through as the dominant post presence eases her way back after a missed season.

Guard Avery Strickland, a Farragut product, is day to day with an injury but Harper expects her back after in less than a week. Guard Edie Darby returned to practice Thursday after missing a stretch with an injury.

Key played in nine games in the 2022-23 season before she was a last-minute scratch when UT faced Chattanooga last December. The former All-SEC selection was diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs and missed the remainder of the season.

Harper expects the Lady Vols will be prepared to put timeframes on Key’s return and the phases to it before the end of October. For now, the plan is filled with patience and listening.

I think it is really important that we understand she is not going to just snap her fingers and be like she was,” Harper said. “You have to look at in a different lens. She had to sit out and do nothing for a long time. Now, we are just trying to be as smart as we can to be able to put her in a position to be successful but also to be healthy as she continues her career.”

The 6-foot-6 Key opted to return to Tennessee, announcing her decision in early March. She holds the UT record for blocks with 295 after breaking Candace Parker’s school record of 275 during her junior season. Key also set the single-season UT record with 119 blocks as a junior, a total that ranks No. 4 in SEC history.

That defensive dominance made Key a preseason All-SEC selection prior to her senior season, which was promptly altered by her diagnosis.

Harper stated the UT coaches are working closely with team trainers, physicians and support staff for guidance.

“We are in constant communication with that group of people but also with Tamari because she is the one that has to give us the feedback,” said Harper, who is entering her fifth season as the Lady Vols coach.

How Tamari Key is different for the Lady Vols after missing a season.

Key watched practice Thursday from the sideline, a familiar position in the past 10 months.

“I think she learned a lot while she was sitting out,” Harper said. “I think she also understands the role she can have for this team in terms of being a leader.”

Key is one of three fifth-year seniors for the Lady Vols, who open the season on Nov. 7 against Florida A&M. Forward Rickea Jackson opted to return and guard Jasmine Powell is back. They are the veterans of an older team that doesn’t have a freshman and only has two sophomores in Darby and Strickland.

Harper expects maturity on the roster because of that team composition. She is seeing a sense of maturity from Key.

“I think the way she was able to look at the court and look at the team and look at the game and practices in a different light last year, I think was really good last year for her growth and development,” Harper said.

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