On the night before the first practice of the season, Texas’ Lashann Higgs slept just fine.
The fifth-year guard hasn’t felt those pre-practice jitters since her freshman year. Senior Jada Underwood, another veteran, said that Tuesday was just another day for her.
“I don’t get butterflies,” Underwood said. “It’s just come out here and do what we’ve been doing for the last three years.”
Another day for Underwood, though, was the first day of the UT women’s basketball 2019-20 season. Texas went 23-10 last season and was bounced from the first round of the NCAA tournament. The program finished unranked when the final coaches poll of the year was released.
When asked earlier this week about the disappointment of last season, head coach Karen Aston noted that “there are a lot of people that would be happy with what we did last year.” The coach, in her eighth season, is correct. Last season there were 279 Division I teams that won fewer games than Texas. Conference rivals TCU and West Virginia — or 2019 WNIT champion Arizona, for that matter — would have happily taken UT’s spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Longhorns, however, are aware that they don’t attend OK Season University. As Higgs put it, that disappointing finish led to a lot of self-reflection.
“There’s a standard here at Texas, and more importantly, we have our own standard within our program,” Aston said. “I think that was what was most disappointing to me … we just didn’t play like Texas.”
Aston said that her teams typically play with passion and a competitive spirit. She was unsure if those traits were displayed by herself or her players last season. This offseason, she said the Longhorns have “trained and talked like a team that wants to be better and represent Texas better.”
Tuesday’s two-hour practice did end on a turnover, and Aston pointed to rebounding as something to nitpick about the inaugural workout. Problems with on-court communication also drew the coach’s ire throughout the afternoon.
Aston did applaud the Longhorns’ overall effort. Additionally, she thought her team’s conditioning was better than it was at the start of last season. Freshman guard Celeste Taylor was among the players who made a couple of impressive plays.
“I felt like we practiced very hard,” said Higgs, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. “Obviously, there’s still more things that we have to work on, but that will only get better in time.”
Texas opens its season with a trip to South Florida on Nov. 8. The Longhorns’ first meaningful game at the Erwin Center will be a Nov. 14 contest against UTSA.
“Every time we step on the court, we try to represent the University of Texas the best way we can,” Underwood said. “Last year, we definitely did struggle. It’s a new year, a new opportunity. Our job is to come here every day and get better and better, and so hopefully we can make it to the Final Four.”