Only one team can raise a championship trophy at the end of the year. But even without much hardware to show, seasons can still be fulfilling. Overcoming adversity, meeting or surpassing expectations, maximizing and getting the best out of a particular group are usually the causes of so-called “moral victory” seasons.
Last year was not one of those seasons for Texas.
It was a season filled with injuries, bad losses and a sense of never getting over the hump to achieve the team’s potential.
After a 23–10 regular season, the Longhorns were the No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament facing off against No. 10 Indiana. Despite being the higher seed, Texas was unable to hold onto its halftime lead and fell 69-65.
The loss was the beginning of an offseason that left the Longhorns trying to patch holes left by three graduates and a transfer.
After senior guard Lashann Higgs tore her ACL in November, the backcourt lacked depth, relying on junior Sug Sutton and graduate transfer Danni Williams to play heavy minutes for the rest of the season.
This offseason, Texas has already signed three guards, transfer Karisma Ortiz and incoming freshmen Celeste Taylor and
“I am excited to welcome Karisma to our Texas family,” said head coach Karen Aston in a press release. “She comes from a winning pedigree, having played for Coach Phillips at Mitty (High School). She understands the game at a very high level. Our staff and players felt an immediate connection, and we are so thrilled that Karisma chose Texas.”
Taylor, the 2018-19 Gatorade New York Girls Basketball Player of the Year, is regarded as the standout of the class. Her ability to score is much needed and will take scoring pressure off of pass-first point guard Sug Sutton.
“Karen Aston has reached out and snagged a big fish from the East,” said Kevin Lynch, the director of Taylor’s travel team organization. “Her slashing ability allows her to get to the rim and finish. No stage is too big for Taylor as she flourishes against the country’s and the world’s top players in her age group”
Along with the three guards, Texas also added two top-flight frontcourt players, Esmery Martinez and Ashlee Hannan. Both will have to fill the shoes of now-graduated seniors Olamide Aborowa and Jatarie White. For four years, both were staples in the Longhorns’ system. Aborowa was a defensive anchor while White provided a consistent post presence. With Charli Collier and Joyner Holmes being the only two bigs remaining on the roster, the depth provided by Martinez and Hannan — regardless of the level of production — will be highly needed.
Martinez, a 6-foot-2 forward, has a versatile game that complements fellow frontcourt mate, Holmes. Martinez averaged 18.3 points per game and 14.3 rebounds per game during her high school career while her tenacity showed in her game and also in her words.
“Coach Aston made my decision easy, and I felt right at home during my visit,” Martinez said after signing. “Now I’m ready to take care of business and let my actions do the talking.”
One of the biggest signings — literally and figuratively — for Texas is 6-foot-4-inch Ashlee Hannan.
“I am so excited about Ashlee,” Aston said. “I love her high energy and her versatility. She brings a different skill set to our team and will absolutely complement our players that are returning.”
Although Texas will have to integrate five new players, the Longhorns added six during last offseason. This group of incoming players, however, is more versatile than the former. Despite the array of skill sets Aston has at her disposal, getting players to work as a unit is always a difficult task.
This upcoming season will once again show the coaching prowess of Karen Aston, who will be trying to get a team of hers back to the Sweet 16.