KNOXVILLE — It took a few years, but Kamera Harris now appears to have the confidence — and the shot — to contribute to the Tennessee women's basketball team.
Before this season, the 6-foot-3 senior forward had played in just 36 career games. She had played 10 or more minutes just seven times in those games but has averaged 14.8 minutes per game this season and is coming off a career-high eight-point performance against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Nov. 26.
Tennessee coach Kellie Harper has shown confidence in Harris's ability to be on the court late in games, evidenced by her playing the final 7:43 in the Lady Volunteers' 74-63 win over No. 16 Notre Dame on Nov. 11. She had a big offensive rebound that extended a possession with less than two minutes to play in that win.
Then in the UAPB win, Harris knocked down a career-high four shots for her eight points, all of the midrange variety.
"Well, I think Kamera can knock down 15-footers as good as anybody on our team right now," Harper said after the 92-51 win. "She's doing that in practice, and she's doing in it games. It's consistent. I think she has been pretty consistent defensively as well, so that's a good positive for us. I think we will continue to work with every player and try to find areas for all of them to improve, but I like that she's been giving us good minutes."
Harris already has made a career-high eight shots this season. When asked about the increased offensive production, she pointed to the additional work she put into her game during the offseason.
"Honestly, I think that's just it: confidence," she said. "I think this year, even over the summer, I've been really working on my shot and making that a priority for me. Especially being at the 4 position, I knew I would have opportunities to hit that shot, so I've just been practicing it. And when I take them, I'm confident with it, because I know how much I've taken those shots."
Her confidence, as well as the team's, has played a big part in Tennessee's 6-0 start as the 20th-ranked Lady Vols host Air Force (1-6) at 2 p.m. Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Half of the team is new, but the returning players have learned a lot over the past few seasons — especially during last year's tumultuous run, a 19-13 campaign that included the program's first-ever loss at home to Vanderbilt and led to the firing of former coach Holly Warlick.
The players took lessons from that, just like they're taking lessons from this season's solid start.
"I think there's a lot, but probably the main thing is when times get tough, how we're going to react to them," Harris said. "I think that this year we're all really trying to focus on when things get tough in practice or in the game, just making sure we stay together. And when we hit adversity, I guess just testing us, I think we've been doing a good job of that so far."