Longhorn freshmen adjust to life on and off the court

Sydney Rubin

For the first time in her life, Jada Underwood has to wake herself up in the morning.

When the freshman guard from Mesquite came to Austin this summer to begin her career as a Longhorn, she acquired a slew of new responsibilities. One of them was waking herself up early in the morning for practice.

The first came on Oct. 10, a huge step for freshmen as they continued to acclimate themselves to the program.

“I’m exhausted,” Underwood said. “It was a big change from what I’m normally accustomed to, but I definitely see a preview to a great season.”

Underwood and her fellow freshman guards — Joyner Holmes and Alecia Sutton —  round out a freshman class that is poised to make an impact on the court for the burnt orange this season.

A year ago, Texas’ freshman were enjoying senior year at their respective high schools. But a lot has changed since they arrived on the Forty Acres: Their days are now filled with loaded schedules and minimal time to relax.

“In high school, you didn’t have all this stuff,” Holmes said. “But here it feels like everyday, even if it’s an off day, you always have something to do.”

Adjusting to a new system and new teammates on the court also posed a challenge for the newcomers. It didn’t take long for the freshmen to realize the college game level is very different from
high school.

“Basketball wise, it’s a lot harder,” Sutton said. “When you’re in high school, you do your own thing and you’re basically the star on the team, but when you get here everyone is on the same level or a higher level than you. You have to do more and pay more attention to detail.”

Sutton, the nation’s No. 6 prospect in 2016 according to ESPN, was sidelined for most of her senior season after suffering an ACL injury that required surgery. While adjusting to life in Austin as a student athlete, Sutton also had to balance rehabilitating her knee.

But the 5-foot-8-inch guard was finally cleared for play last week and is ready to join her teammates back on the court.   

“Words can’t even explain it,” Sutton said. “I’m just excited to get back on the court with these girls because they’ve been so supportive throughout my injury. It’s been so long and everybody has been waiting for me to get cleared, so it’s just a great feeling.”

After the team’s first practice last week, head coach Karen Aston said she admired the freshmen’s “motors” on the hardwood. She said they still have a lot to learn, but she’s pleased with their development. 

“They have a lot of athletic ability and a lot of versatility,” Aston said. “For a freshman, every day is a new day so you kind of just want to bring them along slowly.”

The grit and grind is just beginning for the Longhorns as the season quickly approaches. But with a week of practice under their belts, Texas’ freshman are excited for the task ahead.

“It’s just a building process,” Underwood said. “Everyday it gets a little  bit easier.”

Texas kicks off its 2016-17 campaign on Nov. 14 against Stanford in  Palo Alto, California.