Without much fanfare, Karen Aston and Texas women’s basketball are quietly hunting a title.
At the time this issue is going to press, the best basketball team at the University of Texas at Austin is 22-1, ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll, and on its way toward the kind of historic run Longhorn faithful pine for. That would be the women’s basketball team, whose resurgence in recent years has started to resemble the glory days of the program, when it regularly competed for national championships.
Like many of us in the news business, I have a bias for the shiny new thing. Shaka Smart, in his inaugural season, certainly fits that bill. The highly heralded coach has come in to try and take the men’s program to a level it never quite could reach under Rick Barnes and the whole sports world is watching. Meanwhile, the women’s team started off their season hot and have stayed nearly perfect, dropping only one game. By late December, it was clear to me that the excellent women’s team was the one to watch.
Lucky for us, our good friend and photographer Jeff Wilson was interested and available to go to the women’s Texas-OU matchup and document the atmosphere inside the Erwin Center. The resulting photo essay ably captures what more Texas fans really should see: The Texas women are sensational. Their fans are loyal and enthusiastic. And a quiet, years-long rebuild of the House That Jody Built has been completed under Coach Karen Aston. If that doesn’t warrant being on the cover, I don’t know what does.
As we were finishing up this issue, I was reminded of remarks that Jody Conradt made in 2014 when she won the Texas Exes Distinguished Service Award. She told the story of a woman who had brought her 3-year-old daughter to the Erwin Center to watch several Longhorn games, back when the likes of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Governor Ann Richards were staples in the stands and the place was packed. After one game late in the season, once the woman and her daughter were back home, the girl turned on the TV and a men’s game was on. She looked at her mother and marveled, “Boys play basketball?”
I don’t have daughters, but if I did I would hope that they would see the women on this cover as role models. Coach Aston and seniors Celina Rodrigo (left) and Imani Boyette (right) do enormous credit to the University of Texas, both on the court and off. Boyette is even a recipient of the President’s Leadership Award from the Texas Exes. There’s no shortage of outstanding young women in our athletics program and on campus like volleyball senior Kat Brooks. They deserve as much recognition as we can give them.
Photo by Jeff Wilson
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