- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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If you are a women's basketball fan, there are some names you've likely heard a lot, but you might not have seen the players yet. Monday, you'll have the chance.
North Carolina hosts Tennessee (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 9 p.m. ET; Stanford plays UConn at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN) in a game that will be an early showcase for some of the top freshmen this season.
The Tar Heels’ Diamond DeShields, Stephanie Mavunga, Allisha Gray and Jessica Washington comprised what was generally ranked the No. 1 recruiting class this year. North Carolina also has two redshirt freshmen, Hillary Fuller (foot) and Hillary Summers (knee), who sat out last season with injury issues.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s much-heralded Mercedes Russell and Jordan Reynolds will be in action for the Lady Vols. Redshirt freshman Andraya Carter, who played in seven games last season before being sidelined by shoulder surgery, will be facing North Carolina for the second time in her college career. Tennessee’s 102-57 victory over the Tar Heels on Dec. 2, 2012, was Carter’s last game before redshirting.
Both sets of rookies already have been in action this season. Tennessee opened on the road Friday, beating Middle Tennessee 67-57. Russell, a 6-foot-6 center, had 11 points and seven rebounds in her debut. Carter had 10 points and four rebounds; Reynolds didn't score but had two rebounds. All three of them came off the bench, as Tennessee has a more experienced lineup than does North Carolina.
For the Tar Heels, the freshmen are going to have to immediately step into some key roles. In UNC's 87-26 shellacking of Air Force on Friday, Mavunga started her Tar Heel career with a double-double: 16 points and 13 rebounds. DeShields had 16 points; she and Mavunga were in the starting lineup, along with sophomore Xylina McDaniel, and juniors Brittany Rountree and Latifah Coleman.
Gray (13 points), Washington (seven), Summers (five), and Fuller (three) all came off the bench.
While Tennessee was tested in its opener at Middle Tennessee, North Carolina will face its first formidable competition in the Lady Vols. It should be an interesting look at both the present and the future for both squads.