Vic Schaefer didn’t shy away from the rising expectations his team has garnered throughout the preseason during the Big 12 women’s basketball coaches’ preseason teleconference on Wednesday.
The Texas women’s basketball head coach has quickly settled into his new home in Austin after spending eight seasons as the head coach of Mississippi State. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into his offseason program during his inaugural season at UT, but Schaefer said the administration has gone above and beyond to help the women’s basketball program.
“We have tremendous leadership here, from our president to our athletic administration with Chris Del Conte and Chris Plonsky,” Schaefer said. “When I said I would come here, I thought this is what it would be. This is a place where women’s basketball is really important, and it’s a place where we can be really successful.”
Junior forward Charli Collier is the headline name for this Longhorns team. Collier’s breakout sophomore season in 2019, in which she earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors, has put her name on a slew of preseason watchlists, including for the Naismith Trophy, which is awarded to the National Player of the Year.
“On great teams, you’re always going to be able to count on certain players no matter where you’re playing or what time of day or night,” Schaefer said. “You know they are going to show up and bring it, and that you are going to be able to count on them for what they are supposed to do. That’s where I want to see Charli get to.”
Graduate transfer Kyra Lambert, a point guard from Duke, is expected to bring much-needed veteran leadership to a team that does not have any seniors on the roster. Her cerebral nature and calm confidence will do wonders for the younger players on the team, Schaefer said.
“You’re talking about a kid who’s a tremendous competitive spirit,” Schaefer said. “I think she’s going to have a presence on the floor that, when our young kids look around and things might be a little shaky, they are going to look at her and see someone who is in the moment and very calm.”
Schaefer is quite familiar with the Big 12’s brand of basketball after serving as an associate head coach for Texas A&M from 2003-2011 before the Aggies moved to the SEC. He said he does not take any team in the conference lightly.
“We play 18 conference games if I am not mistaken, and to me, that’s 18 rivalry games,” Schaefer said. “It’s a league where, if you have an off night, and you don’t play well, you’re not going to get beat. You’re going to get embarrassed.”
Just a week before the start of the 2020 season, Schaefer said the Longhorns are still attempting to establish the culture required for sustained success.
“If you’re going to be a top-10 program, you have to have players that understand it’s a lifestyle,” Schaefer said. “It’s not easy, and that’s why there’s only 10 (teams) up there. I wasn’t hired to bring a top-25 basketball team to Texas. I was hired to bring a top-10 program to Texas.”