Pat Summitt, the women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee and a consultant to the Washington Mystics, defended the decision to place Mystics' forward Chamique Holdsclaw on the injured list even though she was fit enough to practice a day later.

Holdsclaw has been sidelined by what she said is a "personal medical issue" and has refused to elaborate on what's wrong. Summitt, who also declined to discuss Holdsclaw's ailment, said the player's condition had improved enough for her to practice, but that she was not fit enough to play in games.

"It's a matter of her getting back and starting to work out," said Summitt, the winningest coach in women's college basketball. "We have to see how she feels."

Holdsclaw, the WNBA's second-leading scorer and a vital cog in the Mystics' attack, caused a stir when she practiced with the team on Thursday, the day after the club placed her on the injured list. Up to then, she had not practiced for more than two weeks and had missed four of the previous five games.

A few eyebrows were raised when Holdsclaw chose not to join her team on the sidelines during Wednesday night's loss to the Indiana Fever even though she had told club executives that she felt well enough to practice the next day. It's customary for injured athletes to offer teammates support by sitting with them during games.

"She was at the game," said Summitt, who coached Holdsclaw at Tennessee during the late 1990s. "She sat with me in the skybox."

As to why Holdsclaw appeared to suddenly recover the day after going on the injured list, Summitt said that the player informed the club "well before" Wednesday that she would return to practice on Thursday.

That would indicate that Holdsclaw, who is required by WNBA rules to sit out at least three games after going on the injured list, could be recovered enough to play in the Mystics' Sept. 9 game against the New York Liberty.

"We have to wait and see," Summitt said.

The Mystics, meantime, are scheduled to play the Indiana Fever at Conseco Fieldhouse tonight at 8, three days after losing 75-58 at home to the Fever.

Yesterday, the Mystics worked on defending Indiana's front-court trio of forwards Tamika Catchings and Natalie Williams and center Kelly Schumacher, who finished Wednesday's game with 16 points apiece.

"We didn't play the kind of help defense we did in our last two games," Mystics Coach Michael Adams said. "They threw four or five new sets at us but it comes down to us playing more aggressively and communicating with each other."

After going on injured list, Chamique Holdsclaw -- out with "personal medical issue" -- is eligible to return for Sept. 9 game against New York.