All the coaches at Nike Camp wear shirts with school logos. All except Pat Summitt, who wears Tommy Hilfiger. Summitt is a bona fide celebrity, having appeared on Good Morning America, 60 Minutes II and The Rosie O’Donnell Show. On the second day of camp, Summitt is wearing black silk Tommy dress shorts with a matching knit top and black Cole Hahn loafers. Two heavy diamond-and-gold national championship rings sparkle on her fingers. How does she decide which of her six championship rings to wear? “That’s easy,” she jokes. “The last two.”
What competing coaches may not notice is how Summitt’s bejeweled knuckles tighten every time Ashley Robinson glances at Texas’s Jody Conradt. They don’t notice that beneath the impeccable grooming, Summitt is bone-thin and has the exhausted eyes of a person who lives with stress. Summitt doesn’t like to talk about recruiting; she has learned that anything she says can and will be used against her, even by her friends in the business.
That day, Diana Taurasi tells the press that Tennessee is no longer among the schools she is considering.
When Taurasi is asked why Tennessee has dropped off her list of programs, she shrugs. “Pat and I talked on the phone,” she says. “But there just wasn’t that chemistry. I just wasn’t feeling it.”
Texas recruit Ashley Robinson lacks the cocksureness of Taurasi and some of the other campers. “I’m lazy,” she admits. “I want [a coach] who will make me work. I’ve never had anyone push me to my limits. I’ve never won a championship either.” Virtually every coach wants Robinson. They think she has the potential to become the next Lisa Leslie: She is versatile, with a good jump shot–and the looks of a model.
Taurasi is dominating the camp. She has a bawling voice and an uncanny knack for making big shots. On the second day, she hits three 3-pointers to rally her team from behind.
Taurasi’s problem is that she appears to lack judgment. She will shoot from anywhere. Sometimes the ball goes in, sometimes it doesn’t. “The way I look at it, I might make 100 turnovers, but I’m also going to make good things happen,” she says. “Some players throw a bad pass, and their coach takes them out of the game. What will they learn from that?”
The consensus among coaches is that Taurasi can shoot a team into a game, or she can shoot a team out of it. “That kid was born without a give-a-shitter,” one coach says. “If she’s going to lead a parade, that’s great. If she’s running my team, that’s bad.”
On the last day of camp, Robinson’s team is scheduled to play a team led by Taurasi and Augustus. It will be the most interesting scrimmage of the tournament, and the coaches’ bleacher is packed.
Robinson works her way inside, draws a foul and sinks two free throws. On her next trip down the court, she arcs a three-pointer.