By Chloe Levering
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As the colder months approach each year, basketball fans gear themselves for the upcoming season, especially fans of the nationally ranked Tennessee men’s and women’s teams. For Tess and Edie Darby, this is something they have done together for practically all their lives.
“I’ve been playing basketball ever since I could walk or talk,” Edie Darby said. “It was very competitive. Even outside of basketball, it’s very competitive in our household. Our parents, they’re both athletes and they push us every day to be better.”
Edie, a freshman, is joining her sister Tess, a junior, on the No. 5 ranked Lady Vols basketball team under head coach Kellie Harper this season. Prior to Lady Vols basketball, Tess and Edie played on the same team in middle and high school. Now they have rejoined the same team for collegiate ball, but this time, it’s a whole new level of competition.
“It’s been a really big joy, getting to play with each other in high school, winning a state championship together,” Tess explained. “Now we’re at a higher level, a bigger platform, so it’s (about) playing together and winning a national championship.”
Both being from Greenfield, Tennessee, the sisters have considered themselves Lady Vols fans before being Lady Vols themselves— and they are definitely familiar with the culture Pat Summitt created years before they set foot on Rocky Top.
“There’s so many things that you can just tell that Coach Kellie was a part of it (Pat Summit’s culture). The way she carries herself, the high expectations she has,” Tess said. “She’s a role model for me to look up to, and especially as a coach…I can be pushed both on and off the court, with someone there to lead and to guide me into my next years after college. She’s been that but so much more.”
For Edie, the combined experience of playing with her sister, as well as under Coach Harper, is one unlike any other.
“It’s definitely very surreal. I don’t even know how to put it into words honestly,” Edie said. “I never dreamed I would be here but I’m very blessed to be here, playing with my sister and all these amazing athletes, and I’m definitely blessed to be playing for Kellie Harper, who played under Pat Summitt, because she keeps the culture alive.”
When asked about her jersey number, Edie smiled and said “There were three numbers to choose from…12’s the opposite of 21,” a reference to Tess’s jersey number, 21.
The Darby sisters join each other and the rest of the Lady Vols basketball team in pursuit of a National Championship, and it all starts this Sunday afternoon with the team’s exhibition game against Carson-Newman at 2:00 pm ET. The game will air on SEC+.