The four-year rise of the Texas women’s basketball program coincides with Kelsey Lang’s and Brianna Taylor’s tenure with the Longhorns.
Lang and Taylor were the backbone of Karen Aston’s first recruiting class. The Horns have gone 98-34 during that span. And Texas is a lock to compete in its fourth straight NCAA Tournament next month.
Friday night’s Texas-Iowa State game will serve as a milestone moment. Lang and Taylor, the team’s only seniors, will be honored before tipoff of their final regular-season home game at the Erwin Center.
On Thursday, Aston put their careers into perspective.
“If you look ahead 20 years, their legacy will be how they helped put Texas back on the national scene,” Aston said.
Lang and Taylor, who have shared an apartment for the past two years, are highly motivated — on and off the court.
Lang wants to pursue a professional basketball career upon her graduation in May and plans to attend graduate school to study finance. Taylor aspires to become an officer in the U.S. Air Force, joining her grandfather, father and brother in the military.
The seniors have became friends after competing against each other as seniors in high school. Lang played at The Woodlands and Taylor at nearby Spring Dekaney. They lived across the dorm hall from each other during their first two years at Texas before deciding to share an apartment.
“I’ve always said that Kelsey is the mother of the two of us,” Taylor said. “She takes care of everything.”
Lang, nodding in agreement, said she and Taylor are great friends. But they have their limits.
On social media on Wednesday night, junior guard Brooke McCarty floated a suggestion that would have lifetime ramifications.
“Last night Brooke came up with the brilliant idea that the three of us should all get ‘Class of 2017’ tattoos,” Lang said. “But she doesn’t graduate until 2018.”
Aston added, “That shows you a little about the point guard running the offense.”
Lang, who’s having her best season, said “blurry vision” forced her to miss most of the second half of Monday’s 70-67 loss to Baylor. She practiced Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to play against the Cyclones.
Aston said she planned to buy Lang a pair of sports goggles for her. Lang, smiling, declined the offer.
The coach said she never looks forward to Senior Night, but this game will be particularly difficult for her. She described Taylor and Lang as the “anchors” of the team, citing their court energy.
“The people who I appreciate the most are the ones who show up every day and work,” Aston said. “It’s not necessarily the ones who score the most points or are the flashiest. That’s what these two have brought to the table.”
Taylor said her favorite moment at Texas was a 92-88 double-overtime victory Feb. 13 at Florida State. The Longhorns rallied in the fourth quarter and rode McCarty’s career-best 29-point performance.
“Everyone contributed, including the ones who normally don’t get a lot of minutes,” Taylor said. “That shows our depth, our growth. We were a team.”
Taylor and Lang have enjoyed a journey that was not always easy. Both recall Aston yelling at them during practice when they were freshmen. The coach used to call Lang “Kitten.”
Lang, though, said the players were not the only people who grew up over the past four years.
“As we were growing up, the coaches were growing up, too,” Lang said. “As a freshman you didn’t understand why the coach was yelling at you. Now I understand.”
“Coach has changed a little bit,” Taylor said.
Aston, overhearing their remarks, did not deny that she has changed.
“What they’re saying, I believe, is that I’ve gotten soft,” she joked.