KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Exactly one month from today, Team USA will be in Knoxville for an exhibition game against Tennessee. It’s a full circle moment for Head Coach Kellie Harper, whose first experience as a Lady Vol came against the national team in 1995.
“It was the dream team, the ’96 dream team,” said Harper. “I got in the game. I was holding the basketball, looking for someone to throw it to because I was going to pass it to the post because Pat told me to pass it to the post. I’m a rule follower, so I’m getting ready to pass it to the post and Nikki McCray took the ball and went and shot a layup. That was literally my first experience in an Orange and White jersey.”
While it was a welcome to elite basketball moment for Harper, she said it was an opportunity that she will always remember.
“You’re playing the best in the world,” said Harper. “It was a fun experience to do that.”
Tennessee ended up losing that game when Harper was a freshman, but the Lady Vols have played Team USA twice since, with the only victory coming back in 1999. While Tennessee will go up against and learn from the best of the best, Harper added that the national team can also benefit from the matchup.
“It’s a great opportunity to get to play a team that will hopefully be competing for a gold medal,” said Harper. “We’re also doing this for Team USA. We want to help give them opportunities in front of a lot of fans, so to me it’s helping everyone. It’s growing the game. It’s giving our players the opportunity to play the best, and hopefully supporting them while we’re doing it.”
Tennessee and Team USA will tip off at 6 p.m. November 5.