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Golden: Taylor's emergence will take heat off top weapon Collier, Texas women

Texas is a No. 6 seed

Cedric Golden
Austin American-Statesman
Texas head coach Vic Schaefer and guard Celeste Taylor discuss a play against West Virginia during a February game in Austin. After struggling with her shot for much of the season, Taylor rediscovered her stroke with a 22-point performance against Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament. Texas opens the NCAA Tournament against Bradley on Monday.
  • Taylor scored 22 points and made three triples against Baylor
  • Texas guard Courtney Ramey seeks to end a 1-for-14 shooting slump.
  • Drew Brees was much more than a football player.

The Texas women will go as far as second-team All-American Charli Collier will take them but the guards have really come on of late.

As the Longhorns prepare for first round opponent Bradley in that basketball mecca of San Marcos — hey, I won’t apologize for loving that town — coach Vic Schaefer has to be happy with the recent emergence of sophomore guard Celeste Taylor and the steady production from junior Joanne Allen-Taylor.

Opponents will surely try and take away Collier the way Big 12 power Baylor has in three meetings this season, though not everyone has the size of NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo.

The pressure on the WNBA bound Collier will come from all angles, but the Horns are starting to show some real balanced play at the right time of the season, especially with Taylor having rediscovered her stroke. She scored 22 points in the Big 12 conference semifinal loss to Baylor and knocked down 3 of 4 3-pointers and all six free throws.

“The kid is special,” Schaefer said. “Like I’ve said many times, she’s my kind of player. She will do it both ends. She’s a tough, physical kid. She will step in front of a freight train to take a charge, she will rebound for you. She’s that big guard we really need. I’m happy for her, but I’m happy for her that she’s seeing the fruits of her labor.”

Taylor has struggled offensively this season with her jumper and at finishing at the basket. A self-starter, she has spent some extra hours in the gym to get better and it’s starting to come out in games. She has a nice offensive repertoire to go with the hard-nosed effort she gives night in and night out on defense where she always draws the other team’s best perimeter player. Taylor wouldn’t have it any other way.

The extra reps have resulted in more shots starting to fall. Scoring in bunches against one of the top defenses in the country should be a confidence builder.

“I know how good I am,” she said. "I know the time and work I put in every day. It’s been like this since last year. I know at some point it’s going to show.”

The Horns will be a tough out if they show the big-play ability they displayed in that conference tourney thriller over a really good Iowa State team. They gave Baylor a tussle early in the second half before the Lady Bears showed their championship mettle down the stretch.

If anything, Texas and Taylor are battle tested and tournament ready.

Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) and forward Royce Hamm Jr. (5) celebrate their victory over TCU in Fort Worth in early March. Ramey made only 1-of-14 field goal attempts in the two wins at the Big 12 Tournament. His ability to regain his stroke will be key in Texas making a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Ramey’s stroke

While coach Shaka Smart has complimented Courtney Ramey for his leadership, the junior guard has been really struggling with his shot lately.

Ramey continues to be adept at feeding post Jericho Sims on the interior, but for the man who is the most accurate of Texas’ 3-point shooters, the shots haven’t been falling lately. He made only 1 of 14 field goal attempts in the two wins at the Big 12 Tournament and missed all seven of his 3-point tries. He did come up with five assists in the championship win over Oklahoma State.

While fellow team leader Matt Coleman usually carries around a supreme amount of confidence, Ramey is a tough self-critic who may brood if things aren’t going well. It’s an interesting dichotomy because when Coleman was going through a massive struggle down the stretch in a late season clash at Oklahoma, Ramey was the one speaking encouragement in his ear. Coleman hit a huge jumper in the final seconds to spur the win.

“The way that Courtney encouraged him and helped him stay in the fight,” Smart said during his Wednesday media availability, “That’s by far more powerful than anything that I can do as a coach.”

Ramey has proven himself to be a big-game player and the lights will be at their brightest on Saturday. I expect he will show up with his typical fire come tipoff.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, seen here celebrating with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Saints' 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, has announced his retirement. Brees, the career leader in completions and yards passing, will go down as one of the greatest humanitarians in league history for his work in helping rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Brees was Mr. Saint

Drew Brees made New Orleans a winner, not only as an NFL franchise but as a city.

The career records in yards passing (80,358), touchdown passes (571) illustrate an historic career, but his work in helping rebuild the city from the rubble left by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 will never be forgotten.

He may have been undersized for the position but the 6-foot Austinite stood taller than Manute Bol when it came to his hometown. His was an example that has been followed by this next generation of players like J.J. Watt and others.

“I exhausted myself to give everything to the Saints organization, my team and the great city of New Orleans,” he said in a statement.

Twenty-year runs like the ones enjoyed by Brees and Tom Brady aren't typical, but it’s good to see him bow out when it was clear that injuries were starting to become the norm and not the exception over the last couple of seasons.

We will still him in the NBC studio every Sunday but the New Orleans franchise won’t see the likes of him again in a Saints’ uniform.

Next stop? Canton.

In this Nov. 22, 1997, file photo, Dallas Mavericks' center Shawn Bradley (44) looks to pass against Milwaukee. Bradley was paralyzed when he was struck from behind by a vehicle while riding a bike near his Utah home, saying in a statement nearly two months after the accident he intended to bring awareness to bicycle safety.

Shawn Bradley

Horrible news surrounding former Dallas Mavericks center Shawn Bradley, who is paralyzed after being struck by a car while bicycling near his home in St. George, Utah back in January. He suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury.

The youngsters may not remember him but Bradley was a 7-foot-6 center who spent the majority of his career with the Dallas Mavericks after a solid college career at BYU.

“He plans to use his accident as a platform to bring greater public awareness to the importance of bicycle safety,” the Dallas Mavericks said in a statement.

Nicknamed the “Stormin’ Mormon,” Bradley anchored the middle of Dallas teams for eight seasons. Those mid 1990s teams featured the young duo of Jason Kidd, Jamaal Mashburn and Jim Jackson, a trio that famously broke up over off-the-court squabbles.

Bradley, the late Bol and Gheorghe Muresan were the first of the taller-than-tall centers to hit the league.

It’s nearly unfathomable how one didn't notice a 7-foot-6 guy riding a bike on the street, but that's neither here nor there at this point. Prayers go out to the Bradley family.