Sug Sutton embraces role as leader at Texas

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

To players and coaches alike, Sug Sutton is the whole package. On the court, the senior point guard has become a true floor general for the Longhorns. But Sutton’s most valuable asset might be her ability to lead.

“At the point guard role, you have to be able to do multiple things,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “You have to distribute to the team. You have to care about the team. You have to be able to make open shots … I just think (Sutton) is capable of doing all of those things.”

Since coming to Texas in 2016, Sutton has developed into one of the nation’s top point guards. She’s also become an important figure on the Texas women’s basketball team.

However, before other players looked to Sutton for direction, she needed some guidance of her own.

When Sutton first arrived in Texas from her native St. Louis, she was still rehabbing an ACL injury from the year prior and battling homesickness.

During her difficult college transition, Sutton periodically called Reggie Middlebrook, her AAU coach from her playing days with the Missouri Phenom. Sutton didn’t always believe she could lead the Longhorns, but Middlebrook was confident in her abilities.

“We would go to tournaments and after (her) game was over, instead of going back to the hotel and getting her rest, she would want to stay and watch some of our younger kids play,” Middlebrook said. “She wouldn’t just sit on the sidelines and watch. She would be on the bench cheering for them, and almost coaching.”

Once she worked through those trying times, Sutton spent her freshman and sophomore seasons studying the veterans in the program.

“The (2018) senior class, we learned a lot from them,” Sutton said. “We were really close to them, and we’re very thankful that we were able to play with them and learn from them because they were great leaders and great competitors.”

After sitting under future WNBA stars Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty, Sutton became an impact player in her junior year. Starting all 33 regular season games, Sutton led the Longhorns in scoring, assists and steals. 

This season, Sutton has facilitated Texas’ offense, getting her teammates involved on a regular basis. In December, she helped propel the Longhorns to victories over then-No. 17 Tennessee and then-No. 1 Stanford. In February, Sutton was named a top-10 finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, an honor given annually to the nation’s top point guard in Division I women’s basketball. 

“All the hard work that I’ve put in paid off,” Sutton said. “Everyone’s believed in me since day one, and it just feels good to be recognized at the national level.”

Sutton’s biggest challenge as a leader is being more vocal with her teammates. But her strong suit has always been investing in the people around her.

“I don’t think it’s all about just being a leader on the court and talking to people on the court and telling them the good and bad,” Sutton said. “But it’s being for them off the court, too, and just being there as a sister.”

Sophomore center Charli Collier said she appreciates Sutton for doing the difficult job of keeping her teammates on the right path off the court.

“If we have a free weekend, (she) makes sure we’re not doing crazy stuff or stuff that will get us in trouble,” Collier said. “Sug reminds us (to) make sure we’re getting extra shots up, make sure we’re in the gym, make sure we’re eating right.” 

Between leaving her family behind, stepping into a supporting role her first two years and playing through injuries, Sutton has given a lot to the Texas women’s basketball program. Her time on the Forty Acres has allowed her to grow up, and she’s thankful for the opportunity to help others do the same.

“All that hard work — I’m putting it out there now, and all the sacrifices that I’ve made just being here and trying to build this team,” Sutton said. “I mean, it feels good to be a leader. I’m really grateful that I’m able to do that.”