With a roster full of young prospects and an all-new coaching staff, the Texas women’s basketball team knew the 2020 offseason would be an important transition period.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced new head coach Vic Schaefer, who was hired in April, and his three assistants to limit face-to-face instruction.
Despite these external challenges, the new coaching staff was able to communicate with players virtually before in-person training began, associate head coach Johnnie Harris said.
“Before we started practicing, we Zoomed with them,” Harris said. “Since practice has started, we are at weights and conditioning with them. We have been in the gym with them just trying to be there and getting to know them.”
The coaches have been pleased with the veteran leadership inside the locker room so far, Harris said. The team has no seniors on its roster, so it has been up to established playmakers such as junior center Charli Collier to lead by example for the underclassmen.
“I’m just stepping up vocally on the court,” Collier said. “We have a lot of young freshmen on the team, so it’s about being a leader on and off the court and making sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do. At the same time, I am making sure I am getting better myself.”
While the Longhorns’ veterans grow into their roles as leaders, the new faces on the team have embraced the Texas culture. Schaefer said the entire team has put in the work to prepare for the new era.
“I think our team, old and new players, has done a great job,” Schaefer said. “Everybody has embraced the change and the way that we do things. I have been super encouraged and really pleased with how hard our kids have worked, how they come ready and prepared every day and how they show up on time.”
Preseason practices have been vital to the Longhorns as they develop their chemistry with one another. Seven of the current 13 players did not play for the team last season. Texas is also looking to replace dynamic players from last year’s team, such as point guard Sug Sutton and forward Joyner Holmes. The lost production is not an area of concern, however, and the team is excited with the idea of proving themselves, Collier said.
“There are a lot of new faces on this team,” Collier said. “People don’t know a lot about what we have going on right now; they just hear from social media. I feel like when we get on the court, we are going to surprise a lot of people.”
Despite the personnel and player changes as well as the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, the coaching staff knows they have the ingredients for a successful season. That confidence starts with the man leading the charge.
“I believe in his system. I believe in his vision,” Harris said. “Coach Schaefer has no desire to be good — he wants to be great. He has made it known to our players, and it’s that mentality that makes me want to be around him.”