What do Tennessee swimmer Kelsey Floyd and Kentucky basketball sensation John Wall have in common?
Both are four-time Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honorees.
Floyd, a four-time high school All-American for Tates Creek, laughs at the notion of being referred to as "John Wall in a swimsuit." She also points out that Wall has more of his season left.
The 12th-ranked Lady Vols completed their regular season Friday. All that remain are the SEC Meet at Georgia from Feb. 17 to 20 and the NCAAs at Purdue from March 18 to 20.
Unlike Wall, Floyd was not the top prospect in the nation coming out of high school. Heck, she wasn't even the top recruit for Tennessee.
"Just based on what she's done for our team in terms of swimming and her attitude, I wouldn't trade her for any other freshman in the country no matter how fast they are," said Matt Kredich, coach of the Lady Vols. "By the end of her career, she certainly has the ability to be one of the best swimmers in that class, with anyone in the country."
More than being intrigued by Floyd's potential, which he was, Kredich says what really sold him on recruiting her was personality. He saw positive energy and attitude in Floyd.
"We do a lot of exercises in partners, and whoever is her partner is usually laughing by the end of it," Kredich said. "But she's not just joking around. She's really inspiring and she's a very hard worker. She just has a way of making other people around her better because she doesn't sulk.
"When she has a performance that's not what she wants, she doesn't get angry or draw attention to herself. She just figures out what she can do better next time and does it, so there's no drama around her. I think that attitude and that perspective has spread to other people."
Floyd recalls receiving letters from Tennessee, "but as far as contacting the coach, I e-mailed them. He wrote back and asked me what I was looking for in a program. I said I really just want to get a lot faster, and that I knew that my potential wasn't close to being nicked while I was in high school."
Four consecutive SEC Freshman awards, the most recent coming Jan. 12, indicates she was right.
Recording four season bests and as many NCAA "B" cuts at No. 11 Virginia, Floyd won the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.59), was second in the 200 backstroke (1:57.04) and part of the Vols' second-place 200-yard medley (1:40.44) and 400-yard freestyle (3:22.23) relays. She also was named Lady Vol of the Week — an award that includes all sports and classes at Tennessee, which has Top 10 teams in basketball and track.
Floyd has Tennessee's top times of the season in the 200-yard freestyle (1:48.59), 200 butterfly (2:01.32) and backstroke (1:57.04), and ranked second in the 500 (4:53.35) and 1,000 free (9:54.33), and 100 fly (54.90) and back (55.29). Add to that spots on team-leading units in all five relays.
Floyd, who considered the butterfly her best stroke, arrived in Knoxville with bests of 1:01.89 for the 100 and 2:13.92 for 200.
Kredich says Floyd's progress has exceeded the time line he envisioned, although his vision did not limit possibilities.
Floyd credits her improvement to added focus on technique.
Then there's the ZZ Top factor: She's got legs and she knows how to use them.
"Both of her (Wildcat Aquatics) club coaches, Ben Davis and David Kuendig, said that she was an incredible (butterfly) kicker and that if she ever learned how to use her legs, she could just set the world on fire," Kredich said. "From the very beginning of the season, she decided to really utilize her legs instead of just letting them float. She essentially added a kick to her stroke, both freestyle and backstroke, and felt the difference that it made. As we kind of gradually progressed into a heavier training load, it became easier and easier for her to use that. It just changes the way she rides in the water."
Now, Floyd's best stroke "could be any one of the three," Kredich said.
Her versatility goes beyond strokes. She has competed at distances from 100 to 1,000 yards this season.
Is Floyd, who took third in last year's State High School 100 fly and fifth in the 100 back, capable of reaching the London Olympics in 2012?
"Certainly in my view she is," Kredich said. "The last Olympian that came from Tennessee (Christine Magnuson) made the 2008 team and, two years before the Olympic Games, she was very good. But I think Kelsey's even a little bit ahead of where Christine was. The rate at which Kelsey's improved this year indicates that she's certainly capable of getting to the point where she can be a real competitor and a challenger for any one of six events in 2012."