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On guard: Texas freshman Ashley Chevalier finds ways to energize the team

Texas guard Ashley Chevalier, right, greets teammate Joanne Allen-Taylor ahead of the Dec. 2 game against Louisiana Tech at the Erwin Center. As a freshman, Chevalier is playing 14.1 minutes per game.

This season, Ashley Chevalier has taken center stage whenever Texas' starting lineups have been announced at the Erwin Center.

Going into Saturday's home game against Oklahoma (9-10, 6-8 Big 12), Chevalier has started only once. But the freshman guard has accepted the role of distributing customized salutations to the starters as they run onto the court.

She'll dance and do a simultaneous hair flip with Celeste Taylor. There's a complicated handshake with Joanne Allen-Taylor and simpler forearm exchanges for Charli Collier and Karisma Ortiz. As Kyra Lambert and Audrey Warren cross their arms in the shape of a "X," Chevalier mirrors her teammates. Chevalier and Lambert will bump arms once. Warren receives two.

It took only a game or two for Chevalier to get those preferred greetings down. "It's just fun to have that energy and to start everyone's energy off."

Chevalier hasn't just provided Texas (16-6, 10-5 Big 12) with energy in the handshake line. The backup point guard is averaging 14.1 minutes as an off-the-bench spark plug.

She tied a career high with the 28 minutes she played in Wednesday's 61-52 win at Kansas. The 5-foot-7 guard distributed four assists, scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds. Anointed by head coach Vic Schaefer as the team's best on-ball defender, Chevalier drew three offensive fouls in the second quarter.

"She brings so much energy to the court," Warren said. "Every time she steps on, our intensity always raises. Her defense is amazing."

Texas guard Ashley Chevalier and Baylor guard Trinity Oliver battle for a loose ball in Waco on Feb. 14. Teammates point to Chevalier's defense as one of the strongest parts of her game.

When Schaefer took over in April, he needed a point guard since longtime starter Sug Sutton had gone on to the WNBA. He had an idea of whom he wanted to run his offense. Having previously tried to lure Lambert to Mississippi State as a graduate transfer, Schaefer instead got the Duke veteran to sign with Texas

Chevalier was more of a mystery to Schaefer. The No. 86-ranked overall prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, she had signed with former coach Karen Aston and was not recruited by Schaefer. It didn't take long, however, for Schaefer to warm up to the California product.

"Kid goes really hard, to exhaustion," he said in October. "She's probably been my biggest surprise because I didn't recruit her. I didn't know a lot about her."

Lambert and Chevalier share a trait that makes it easy for them to relate to Schaefer. Both want to get into coaching once they are done playing. Lambert was recently accepted into the WBCA's "So You Want To Be A Coach" program. Chevalier's parents, Andre and Michelle, are both basketball coaches.

"Growing up with coaches as parents has helped me see things differently," Chevalier said. "When coaches get on me, I feel like I can take it in a different way than other people who are new to people who get on you like that. I think it's helped me mature in a way."

Said Lambert: "She's a coach's kid, and you can definitely tell."

This season, Lambert leads Texas with 62 assists. Chevalier has distributed 31 dimes. More important to Schaefer, his point guards have limited their turnovers. Lambert's 2.8 assist-to-turnover rate ranks second in the Big 12. Chevalier has committed one turnover while playing 59 minutes over the past five games.

Chevalier turned 20 in the fall but is still four years Lambert's junior. A sixth-year graduate transfer, Lambert has served as Chevalier's mentor as the freshman has adjusted to her first season.

"Kyra has definitely helped me and tagged me along in a lot of things. She's definitely open to having open conversations. If I have questions, she answers them," Chevalier said. "It's definitely a big sister type of role, and I really appreciate her for that."

Lambert has not announced whether she'll take advantage of the NCAA's blanket year of eligibility and return for what would be a seventh year of college basketball. Texas will have plenty of options if it needs a new starting point guard, however.

Chevalier will still be classified as a freshman next season. UT signees Rori Harmon and Kyndall Hunter, both of whom attend Cypress Creek in the Houston area, were named McDonald's All-Americans this week. Harmon was recruited as a point guard, and Hunter can play the position if needed.

"I feel really good about our point guard spot," Schaefer said. "I think it's in a great, great shape for many, many years to come."