UT retiring Candace Parker’s jersey Thursday night

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/SUBMITTED) -- Candace Parker was on hand when Pat Summitt’s banner was raised to the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters on Jan. 28, 2013. The former Lady Vol All-American and reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player will be back at Rocky Top Thursday night to receive her own distinction, as her jersey is retired prior to #5/5 Tennessee’s SEC opener vs. #16/16 LSU.

Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. on CSS, but a pregame ceremony honoring Parker will take place promptly at 6:45 p.m. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the first 2,500 fans will receive a life-size Candace Parker poster.

Tickets are available, but fans should be advised of holiday hours at the ticket office, which will be open Dec. 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Jan. 2 from 8:30 a.m. through game time. The ticket office will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. For ticket information, go to www.UTTix.com.

In addition to the usual paid lots on campus, free parking and free shuttle service will be offered at the UT Ag Campus and will begin two hours prior to tip-off.

For those opting to park on campus, please keep in mind that Phillip Fulmer Way, from Cumberland Avenue to Middle Drive, is closed due to construction on the new university center. Fans entering campus via Cumberland Ave. are encouraged to use Volunteer Blvd. For details about traffic, parking and your visit to campus, go to the UT Basketball Gameday Page at www.utsports.com/gameday/basketball/.

Parker will become the sixth Lady Vol player to be permanently honored in the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters. Her No. 3 banner will join those for former player and current head coach Holly Warlick (No. 22), Chamique Holdsclaw (No. 23), Tamika Catchings (No. 24), Bridgette Gordon (No. 30) and Daedra Charles (No. 32). Lady Vol Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt also had a banner raised in her honor last season on Jan. 28 prior to the game with Notre Dame.

"Candace just exemplifies what it means to be a Lady Vol," Warlick said. "She plays hard, she's won championships, she's won awards, she's a great role model, she has her degree and she loves this program. She's what a Lady Vol should be.

"She has represented our country and won gold medals, played in Europe, been named MVP, Rookie of the Year and All-Star Game MVP for the WNBA, won NCAA titles, you name it. Through all of that, Candace has never lost sight of where she's come from and how hard the road has been to get there. I think she loves this program as much as anyone can."

A native of Naperville, Ill., Parker led Tennessee to consecutive national championships in 2007 and 2008 and ranks third on the UT career list with 2,137 points scored in only three playing seasons (2005-06 through 2007-08). She averaged 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game during her time at Rocky Top and is the Tennessee career and single-season record holder in free throws made and career record holder for blocked shots.

Parker was a three-time All-American and All-SEC performer (2006-08) who also won SEC Player of the Year honors in 2007 and SEC Female Athlete of the Year in 2008. She also won the following national awards: John R. Wooden Player of the Year (2007, 2008), Naismith Player of the Year (2008), AP Player of the Year (2008), Honda-Broderick Cup Athlete of the Year (2008), State Farm Wade Trophy (2007), and the USA Basketball Writers Player of the Year (2007, 2008). She was also the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player in the Lady Vols’ back-to-back national title seasons of 2007 and 2008.

In her 2007-08 senior season, Parker averaged 21.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as Tennessee won the NCAA title in Tampa. In addition to being named a consensus All-American and player of the year, the SEC Female Athlete of the Year and winner of the Honda Broderick Cup, she was the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She went on to win both the league’s MVP and Rookie of the Year accolades that season, becoming the first to accomplish that feat.

Before beginning her pro career, however, Parker had other pressing business. She played in the 2008 Olympic Games, helping the USA bring home a gold medal. She was a key player in 2012, as well, as the USA again made the run to gold, enjoying that victory with another former Lady Vol and retired jersey honoree in Catchings.

Parker continues to star in the WNBA for the Sparks and is playing overseas in Russia again this winter.

“It’s a very well-deserved honor for Candace,” Warlick said. “She was highly-regarded coming out of high school and helped us carry on our tradition by leading us to two NCAA Championships during her time here. She ended her career as one of the most-decorated players in school history

“She’s been a great ambassador for the Lady Vol basketball program and for women’s basketball as a whole as both a WNBA player and member of the U.S. Olympic Team. We’re pleased to see Candace recognized in this way.”

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