36 years ago, a young coach took over a program that thought it didnâ€™t need any help. She asked the women on the team to â€œhave an open mindâ€.Â The coach was the legendary Jody Conradt, and the team was the Texas Longhorns.
In that first season, Coach Conradt went 36-10, and would go on to establish what was at the time the defining brand in women’s college basketball.Â Coach Conradt’s team went on to be the first to be undefeated National Champions, winning the 1985/1986 title with a 34-0 record.Â Her teams won 30 or more games 10 times. They laid claim to 3 Final Fours, 8 Elite Eights, 12 Sweet Sixteens, over 20Â Tournament and Conference Championships. and almost 800 wins in her time here.
Today teams like Baylor, Stanford, Connecticut, and Tennessee are the recognizable names, all driving down the trail the Longhorns blazed.Â When the end finally came after two tough seasons, it was hard, but Coach Conradt left with the amazing accomplishment of her 900th win, and turned the program over to up and coming Gail Goestenkors, a great coach, but not one tied to the Texas family.Â Coach Goestenkors brought an impressive resume, and did win at least 20 games 3 of her four years here, but this is Texas.Â You donâ€™t come to Texas to just compete, you come here to dominate.Â The team made the NCAA tournament, but exited after one game 3 straight years.Â With her heart not in it any longer, Coach G as she was called resigned earlier this year, though some were calling for her to be released with limited results and a salary near $1 million a year.
Let’s be honest before we go on. We donâ€™t support our hoops teams near enough.Â We expect greatness from them as much as we expect greatness from our Football team.Â To show our support of these lofty expectations, we pack about 4,000 people a game into a stadium that holds over 16,000.Â We want our team to compete with Connecticut, Tennessee, Stanford, Baylor, etc, but their fans show up every game at double or triple the rate we do, and every one of those stadiums are in cities much smaller than Austin.Â Over 800,000 people in the city and 1.7 million in the metro area, and that is the best we can do?Â When we don’t support our team, it gives the impression we don’t care.Â When prospective athletes think we donâ€™t care and see we donâ€™t show up, bad things happen like Baylor and Texas A&M winning National Championships. Unacceptable to the fan base.
Enter our new Coach Karen Aston, and an excellent group of assistants who have Texas ties and truly know this area.Â Coach Aston has already won 100 games in her career, and energized the fan base.Â Follow her on Twitter @CoachKarenA, and you’ll see she never seems to sleep and is always working hard to make the team bettter. Follow some of the players on Twitter, or read their blogs on TexasSports.com, and you’ll quickly see things under Coach Aston are not only different, they are different in a way that should pay off very quickly.Â The team is working hard on the court, on the field doing drills, in the weight room, and in the classroom. Since many of you may not know them, lets meet the team, and learn a bit about each of them:
#11 Chelsea Bass â€“ Bass is a 5-10 Junior Guard out of St. Agnes Academy in Houston.Â Bass had the 3rd highest Field Goal percentage on the team and averaged just under 8 points a game.
#00 Kayla Brewer â€“ Brewer is 6-1 Junior Forward from Jacksonville, Florida who transferred in from South Carolina in 2011
#3 Nneka Enemkpali â€“ Enemkpali is a 6-1 Sophomore forward from just up the road in Pflugerville. As a freshman last year, she played in all 32 games and was 3rd on the team in blocks.
#24 Chassidy Fussell â€“ Fussell is a 5-10 Junior Guard from Troy, Tennessee who led the team in scoring, free throw percentage, 3 point percentage, and made 31 starts. Fussell was Tennessee Class 2A Ms Basketball her senior year.
#44 Anne Marie Hartung â€“ Hartung, a 6-3 Junior Forward came to Texas from Bowling Green, and was 5th on the team in Steals last year while contributing almost 17 minutes a game and 10 starts.
#25 Ronisha Major â€“ Major is a 6-1 Sophomore Forward from Huntsville, who appeared in 20 games as a freshman and shot over 40% from the field. Major brings a history of leadership from high school, where she was a team captain all four years.
#42 Shanice McKoy â€“ McKoy is a 5-5 Junior Guard from Toronto, Ontario, who missed last season after tearing her ACL last summer.
#4 Tiffany Moore â€“ Moore is a 5-10 Junior Guard from Frisco, who has provided depth for the Horns the last two years.Â Moore was selected to the 2010 McDonalds All-American Game.
#45 Cokie Reed â€“ Reed is a 6-4 Senior Post from Waco who returned last year after missing the prior season recovering from foot surgery.Â Reed was 5th on team in rebounds last year, and and appeared in 29 games with 20 starts, contributing in all phases.Â Reed is the only Senior on the team.
#32 Brady Sanders â€“ Sanders is a 5-11 Sophomore Guard from Joshua, who did not appear in any games last season. She was an All-State player in high school.
Pretty solid base for Coach Aston’s staff to work with as the team replaces standouts Ashleigh Fontenette, Yvonne Anderson, and Ashley Gayle.
For the first time since the 2004 season, the Longhorns added two JUCO transfers to the team, and both are impressive:
#23 Gigi Mazionyte â€“ Mazionyte is a 6-2 Forward from Weatherford College, and a native of Lithuania. Mazionyte averaged 15 points and almost 8 boards a game for Weatherford, and has played on the Lithuanian National team for several seasons.Â She can play inside and out, and brings a wealth of experience from her international playing days.
#5 Ashley Roberts â€“ Roberts is a 5-8 guard from Duncanville coming in from South Plains College. She was an all conference honoree twice, and averaged over 17 points a game last year, including a 40 point game against Pima CC.Â Roberts brings experience, toughness, and definitely knows how to throw it down. Follow her on Twitter – @aroberts14
In addition to Mazionyte and Roberts, the Longhorns signed three impressive freshman who are already grinding on campus:Â
#1 Empress Davenport â€“ Davenport is a 5-7 Guard out of Duncanville and the cousin of Ashley Roberts. Davenport was a top 100 recruit, and was the MVP of the 2012 5A State Tournament. Follow her on Twitter – @Emp_HD
#2 Celina Rodrigo â€“ Rodrigo is a 5-8 Guard from Marietta, Georgia.Â Rodrigo brings an impressive resume to Texas, as a McDonaldâ€™s All-American nominee, Georgia All State team member, and several All Region teams. She also won a national title with the Georgia Pistols and was named to the Nike Silver Championship Team.Â She is the Georgia 5A record holder for single game assists with 17. Follow her on Twitter – @Celina_Allegra
#34 Imani McGee-Stanford â€“ Imani is a towering 6-7 Center from Los Angeles who was a top 15 recruit. She was named to the 2012 USA Basketball U18 National team, as well as being named a second team All American by Slam.Â She was a three time Sporting News All-American and led her team to the State Championship last year. Her brother JaVale is currently a center for the Denver Nuggets.Â Imani will provide a presence in the middle the Longhorns havenâ€™t had in several years.
Follow her on Twitter – @prettybeasty
Now you’ve met the returning players and the 5 outstanding newcomers, you do realize this team, both in talent and coaching, got better in a hurry. Can they #LightTheTower and bring home a title? Time will tell, but they are certainly on the right track.Â Come out, support this team, and lets watch these ladies take back the top spot for the Texas Longhorns, who made the spot in the first place.
We will check back with the team as the season gets closer, but all signs point to a big year and an even bigger resurgence for the Longhorns.
Follow Johnny on Twitter – @205Whisenant