Forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau’s absence from practice Friday was an alarming development for a Texas women’s basketball team in need of frontcourt help.
While her teammates worked out at the Erwin Center, Caron-Goudreau stood on the sideline, her right thigh wrapped. The senior’s availability for Saturday’s Big 12 game against Kansas — and Monday’s game against top-ranked UConn — is uncertain.
The last thing Longhorns coach Karen Aston needs is a starting frontcourt player to miss more time. While No. 7 Texas is enjoying a successful season, that success does not erase the recent shortcomings of its tallest players.
“Our production in the paint has not been where it needs to be,” Aston said. “From a collective standpoint, they all need to take ownership.”
The 6-foot-4 Caron-Goudreau has averaged 5.6 points and 5.1 rebounds this season while playing 20.6 minutes per game.
In the best-case scenario, Joyner Holmes would fill the void while resembling the player who was an All-Big 12 first-team honoree as a freshman. After sitting out the first 10 games of this season while serving a university-imposed suspension, though, the 6-4 Holmes has shown little indication she’s ready for a leading role.
In her five games after the layoff, Holmes has made just 3 of her 16 shots from the field and averaged 2.4 rebounds a game.
One’s left to wonder when Holmes will resemble the player who was ranked as the No. 2 high school recruit in the country in 2016. For now, Aston and Longhorns senior guard Ariel Atkins are being patient.
“Joyner is very important to us, but we have to understand she hasn’t been here for a while and it’s going to take time to get her feet under her,” Atkins said. “It’ll take time to get her timing and chemistry back. … We have to allow her some time to grown into the player she needs to become.”
Aston said the team’s starting frontcourt of Caron-Goudreau and junior Jatarie White has been a “work in progress” all season. The top three scorers for the Longhorns are guards Brooke McCarty, Lashann Higgs and Atkins, players whose talent is matched only by their experience. One of those three has been UT’s leading scorer in 12 of its 15 games.
Aston said practices have been crisp and productive after a 79-77 loss to unranked TCU on Wednesday night. In that defeat, the UT guards scored 58 of their team’s 77 points, including a season-high 25 by Atkins.
Aston said it will take a “committee” of players to fill Caron-Goudreau’s spot if she cannot play Saturday or Monday. That should present opportunities for Holmes and forwards Jordan Hosey and Olamide Aborowa.
“We had a good practice today,” Aston said. “If that’s an indication of how we’ll play, that’s a good thing.”
Among the Longhorns who have been productive all season is Atkins, whose scoring average of 14.1 points a game would be a career high, topping the 12.8 she posted as a junior. Active on both ends of the court, she also ranks second on the team with 5.3 rebounds a game.
No matter how this season ends, Atkins said her basketball-playing days are far from finished.
What are her plans after graduation?
“I plan to get drafted and go pro. That’s Plan A,” she said.
What’s Plan B?
“To make sure Plan A works.”