Knoxville, Tenn. (WVLT) - The City of Sparta, Tenn., and the Sparta Chamber of Commerce are hosting a "Welcome Home" celebration for local native and Lady Vol head basketball coach Kellie (Jolly) Harper on June 6 at the White County High School gymnasium.
The University of Tennessee Athletics Department is excited to be part of the festivities and will add a Big Orange element to the evening by making it one of its stops on the Summer of Smokey tour. Admission is free.
The event will highlight the return of Harper, who hails from Sparta and is a 1995 graduate of WCHS and a 1999 graduate of UT.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the celebration will run until 7 p.m. There will be BBQ, snow cones and ice cream vendors on site.
At 5:30 p.m., fan activities will begin, featuring jersey try-ons, a prize wheel, drawings and appearances by Smokey and the UT spirit team. The Vol Shop will be on hand with merchandise, there will be UT Athletics posters and season ticket information available, and fans can take selfies with stand-up cut-outs.
The evening's program begins at 6:15 and includes an introduction of Coach Harper, recognition from the mayor and remarks from Coach Harper via a question and answer session. The program is slated to conclude at 7 p.m.
Harper was a five-time AAU All-American in high school and went on to play point guard for the legendary Pat Summitt at UT from 1995-99, appearing in 132 games and helping the Lady Vols win NCAA National Championships in 1996, 1997 and 1998. She was part of a senior class that helped the Big Orange forge a 131-17 overall record as well as win two SEC regular season titles (1998, 1999) and three SEC Tournament crowns (1996, 1998, 1999).
On April 9, Harper became only the third Lady Vol head coach in the NCAA era of women's basketball. She took the reins at Tennessee after six years of leading the Missouri State Lady Bears, capped by an impressive march to the 2019 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title and magical run to the NCAA Sweet 16.