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After Elite Eight run, Texas set 'to take on the world' with mix of newcomers, veterans

Texas coach Vic Schaefer gives instructions to Audrey Warren during a game last season. Schaefer led the Horns to a 21-10 record and the NCAA Elite Eight.

While meeting with reporters Thursday, Vic Schaefer made note of what he was wearing.

Dressed in a burnt orange Henley shirt, Schaefer insisted that the casual look wasn't his preferred fit for press conferences. But it was picture day on campus for the Texas women's basketball team, so the Longhorns' head coach conceded that his wardrobe was "just the way it is today."

Whenever that team photo is released, Schaefer's shirt will be a secondary thought. Fans of the program are likely to be a lot more interested in the new faces — the Longhorns have seven newcomers this season.

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"We've got 13 young ladies that are excited to get out and wear the burnt orange and represent our great university," Schaefer said. "Seven of them are new, so over half of our team is new to the program. They're trying to learn the way we do things and learn a completely different way of how to do things compared to where they've been and what they've done."

Last season was Schaefer's first at Texas, and he led the Longhorns to a 21-10 record and the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. A lot has changed, however, since the Longhorns left the Alamodome in March after that loss to South Carolina.

"I think our returners understand," Texas coach Vic Schaefer said Thursday. "They've seen the benefit of how we do things by how far we made it last year."

All-American post Charli Collier was taken with the first pick of the WNBA draft in April. After six years of college basketball, point guard Kyra Lambert moved on. Celeste Taylor (Duke), Karisma Ortiz (Cal) and Elyssa Coleman (UTSA) transferred. And Schaefer announced Thursday that sophomore forward Precious Johnson recently left the program, too.

Those six players accounted for 58% of the scoring last season. Collier, Lambert and Taylor were three of the four Longhorns who played at least 700 minutes.

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Texas won't be shorthanded, though. The Longhorns have four freshmen who were national top-40 recruits. Junior college products Kobe King-Hawea and Femme Masudi and Mississippi State transfer Aliyah Matharu also joined the team.

Of the 12 Longhorns from last year's Elite Eight team, nine were tied to the previous coaching staff of Karen Aston. This season, nine of the 13 players will have been recruited by Schaefer. Each of the four returnees he inherited played in at least 23 games last season, and Joanne Allen-Taylor and Audrey Warren were starters. (Allen-Taylor led the nation with 1,097 minutes played.)

So is this more of a Vic Schaefer team than last season's?

"We're getting closer to that," he said.

"I think our returners understand," he continued. "They've seen the benefit of how we do things by how far we made it last year. ... Our new players, our seven new ones, those are kids that we recruited; our stamp's on them. We feel like they fit what we want to do and how we want to do it."

Schaefer also overhauled his coaching staff this offseason after longtime lieutenant Johnnie Harris took over at Auburn and Elena Lovato departed. Schaefer has had Dionnah Jackson-Durrett on his bench since 2015, and he has added Calamity McEntire and April Phillips to the mix.

Schaefer said McEntire and Phillips "checked all the boxes." He lauded their work ethic, contacts and experience. McEntire comes to Texas after a five-year stint at Dayton. Phillips was technically hired away from Arizona, but she had been working at Cal the previous two seasons.

"I'm always doing my research and just making sure that they were the right fit," Schaefer said. "Just like with our players in recruiting, it's really important that (when) you bring somebody into the family that we're all like-minded, we're all highly motivated."

Texas will open its season at home against New Orleans on Nov. 9. In nonconference play, UT will host only one team that reached the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns, however, will leave Austin to face the NCAA's reigning champion (Stanford) and runner-up (Arizona). Road games against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Princeton also should test Texas. 

"We're ready to take on the world," Schaefer said. "We are — look at the schedule. We're going to prepare; we're going to get ready."