Over a decade ago, Pat Summitt recruited a young prodigy from Naperville, Illinois, to play for the Tennessee Volunteers. Candace Parker won almost every player of the year award in 2003 and 2004, and was the Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year in 2004.
Parker arrived in Knoxville with lofty expectations that were almost crushed when she missed her first season with a knee injury. But as she did with all her players, Summitt demanded the best from Parker. And Parker embraced the challenge. She played three seasons at Tennessee, winning Summitt's final two titles. Parker also won the Naismith Award, became the first player to dunk in an NCAA Tournament game, and the first player to dunk twice in a college game.
Hours after Summitt's passing Tuesday, Parker was on the court for the Los Angeles Sparks. The two-time WNBA MVP delivered 31 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in an 89-84 win. Emotions kicked in after the game during Parker's interview with ESPN's Holly Rowe.
Candace Parker's postgame interview with Holly Rowe about Pat Summitt pic.twitter.com/1bWZWjD5ag
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) June 29, 2016
In case you cut the interview early, the waterworks star at about 1:03. That is when Parker and Rowe embrace. Earlier Tuesday, Rowe praised Summitt on Twitter, as many others did:
Other than my Mom, Pat Summit is the most influential woman in my life. She showed us we could be tough, excellent, fun, kind & win.
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) June 28, 2016
Parker scored 25 points in the second half, and her 13 total rebounds were a season high. She kept her coach's wisdom alive, writing "Rebound" on her sneaker.
Candace Parker wearing orange Adidas for Pat Summitt pic.twitter.com/MzZ7BqFyki
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) June 29, 2016
"Well, I see coach's glare, and I hear her voice screaming at me to rebound, especially on the offensive end," Parker said. "I see her little head going back and forth telling me to rebound. It's very ironic that I had my season high in rebounding tonight."
In the interview, Parker also said, "Definitely from here on out, I’m playing for her."
Both Summitt and Parker have banners that hang from the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters. Those will bind them physically. Mentally, Parker will lean on Summitt's teachings for the rest of her life. Owning letters like this helps:
— Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker) June 28, 2016
More College Basketball:
-- In Her Last Tweet, Pat Summitt Quoted Muhammad Ali
-- The Special Connection Between Tom Izzo And His No. 1 Fan
-- Clark Kellogg's Lesson Plan For Educating Student-Athletes
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.