Lady Vols host camp for girls as part of NIL

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

The Tennessee women’s basketball team understood what it meant to host a camp for young players over the weekend because a few years ago they were those girls looking up to athletes. The fact multiple campers wore shirts with the images and names of the Lady Vols was, as several players said, “surreal.”


“We do this both to give back to the community and to allow these female student-athletes to be able to earn some money while still in college,” said Terri Holder, the owner of Orange Mountain Designs, which coordinated the camp. “It’s hard to describe how happy they are when the girls run onto the court wearing shirts with their names and numbers.”

Webb School of Knoxville hosted the camp on July 16, which also raised funds for Knox Youth Sports. A total of 110 campers took part in two sessions split into younger and older girls. Shelley Sexton Collier, the head coach of girls’ basketball at Webb, and a Lady Vol point guard on the late Pat Summitt’s first national title team in 1987, provided access to the gym and assisted all day with the camp.

“It’s kind of a motivation to see those little girls have on our shirts,” said sophomore Sara Puckett, who is from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and was the player who sent Tennessee into the Sweet 16 last March with a made three-pointer in a story that can be read here. “It’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than basketball just because they look up to us so much. I love working with kids. I love being here.”

Kaiya Wynn, who is from Nashville and played her final high school season in Houston because of a family move, also will be a sophomore this season. During her media interview, she wore her signature shirt.

“You grow up wearing your favorite athlete’s apparel and their jerseys and T-shirts, so it’s really cool and kind of surreal to be able to wear your own thing with your own name on it,” Wynn said. “Definitely appreciative and it’s a really big deal.”

Tennessee basketball player Kaiya Wynn signs the shirt of a young fan.

Orange Mountain Designs, which sells Lady Vols apparel, caps, mugs and items from keychains to watches to shoestrings, opened in 2008 at the behest of Summitt, who wanted more retail options for Tennessee fans of women’s sports. When the NCAA allowed name, image and likeness opportunities (NIL) for college athletes a year ago, Holder had the vendors, licensing agreements and infrastructure already in place to offer Lady Vol player items.

Holder extended her services beyond apparel and has set up multiple events with the basketball team and softball players that include charitable tie-ins, such as the recent camp. A total of 14 players worked the Webb camp. The other two, Marta Suárez and Jessie Rennie, were not able to attend. Suárez is in Rwanda as part of VOLeaders, and Rennie, who has an injured knee, wasn’t available. Both also are international players – Suárez is from Spain and Rennie is from Australia – and are not allowed to earn money through NIL because of visa laws, although they can participate unpaid in events.

“The Lady Vol basketball players are beloved by the community, and young girls in elementary, middle and high school got to spend several hours with them on Saturday morning and afternoon to be coached, ask questions, play competitive games and get autographs and photos,” Holder said. This was the inaugural event, and a lot of campers told us they would be back next year.”

The next event with the basketball team will be this Saturday, July 23, from 4-6 p.m. for an autograph session at Orange Mountain Designs located at 329 Gill St., in Alcoa. Additional information about the store and the NIL Lady Vol athletes is available here. The event also will provide information about the new Lady Vol Boost (Her) Club that also can be found here.

“I think it’s surreal,” said Tamari Key, a 6-6 senior center from Cary, North Carolina, who is now the all-time shot blocker in Tennessee’s women’s basketball history with 277 swats after passing the legendary Candace Parker, who had 275. “I think we’ll look back 10 years from now and we’ll still have these shirts, and we’ll have something to look back on and know that we were some of the first people to be put in this position to make money off of our name, likeness and image. And at the school that we are doing it at with such tradition makes it really special.

“A few years ago I was in their shoes looking up to college athletes in my state and now being on the other side of that, it’s just such a blessing. It has been a lot of fun just meeting a lot of people in the NIL world and having my face on a T-shirt, I never thought it would happen, and it’s happening.”

Lady Vols (seated) Tamari Key, Jordan Horston, Rickea Jackson; (back) Brooklynn Miles, Karoline Striplin, Jasmine Powell, Justine Pissott, Jasmine Franklin, Jillian Hollingshed, Kaiya Wynn, Edie Darby, Sara Puckett, Jordan Walker and Tess Darby.

Justine Pissott, a freshman from Toms River, New Jersey, was in Argentina in June to play for a USA Basketball junior team and only has been in Knoxville for a few weeks. For the freshman, it was her first time to work a basketball camp.

“I’ve never really experienced something like this and seeing all the little girls and how happy it is that we’re here and how much it makes their day is very inspiring to me to keep doing what I love,” Pissott said. “This is part of the reason why I love the game of basketball.”

Rickea Jackson, a 6-2 senior from Detroit Michigan, transferred to Tennessee from Mississippi State and will play in orange for the first time this season.

“It means a lot to see what we’ve been doing pay off,” Jackson said. College athletes work hard day in and day out, and we’re finally being rewarded. I feel like it’s something that’s good that we’ve been waiting for for a long time. We’re just grateful.”

Key added: “All the team has a bunch of gear out. Softball has gear out. Everything Lady Vols.”

Tennessee senior Jordan Horston chimed in: “Support the women.”

Key and Horston became the first Lady Vol athletes ever signed to an NIL contract in July 2021 when Holder selected the pair last summer to debut the NIL side of her business.

“We’ll always have these T-shirts to show our grandkids and kids one day,” Horston said. “We were the start of something very special. Like Tamari said, it’s surreal, and I am blessed to be in this position. I will never take it for granted.”

Horston was sporting her new shirt, which featured an accurate caricature of the 6-2 guard from Columbus, Ohio, especially her hair, with the Lady Vols official logo an added benefit.

“You can see the muscles a little bit,” said Horston, who has made it a point to get in the weight room. The affable player then laughed and said: “The muscles should have been a little bigger.”

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press. She can be reached at mmcornelius23@gmail.com.

 

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