Vic Schaefer’s highly anticipated debut in burnt orange will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday when the Texas women’s basketball team tips off against a veteran-led SMU program at the Frank Erwin Center.
Leading up to the season opener, the new-look Longhorns have been hampered by depth issues. Junior center Lauren Ebo, who transferred from Penn State this offseason, has yet to be ruled eligible by the NCAA and will not suit up Wednesday. Kyra Lambert, the graduate transfer point guard who played at Duke, will also sit due to an injury.
Those absences are compounded by the Longhorns’ preferred press defense schemes, Schaefer said.
“Our depth is an issue because of how we want to play, too,” Schaefer said. “We aren’t just standing around in a 2-3 zone playing ‘Hope you miss’ defense. If you do that, you probably don’t have a lot of depth issues, but that’s not how we are going to play.”
While the Longhorns may be short-handed with only five upperclassmen players, junior center Charli Collier said the team has been conditioned throughout the offseason to give maximum effort the entire game.
“I’m definitely going to have to play 40 minutes (a game), but it’s something that we’ve been conditioned for,” Collier said. “It’s possible. You can play a game with six or seven (players). Notre Dame has done it. It’s something that we can do and we are expected to do, so we are ready.”
Sophomore guard Celeste Taylor, who was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team last year, will also play extensive minutes. The intensity of preseason practices are a welcome sight to the players, Taylor said.
“Our practices are very long,” Taylor said. “Most of the time, we are always on defense. We have a lot of plays to get through, we are very fast-paced and everything is on the move. (Schaefer’s) very, very intense, and he tries to distribute all his knowledge to all of us, which I really enjoy.”
Despite the high expectations in his first year as head coach, Schaefer said minor hiccups in the early season are expected.
“They’ve done what we asked them to do,” Schaefer said. “They worked really hard in practice. They’re not perfect. We are going to have a lot of growing pains. We basically have two starters (Collier and Taylor) back, and our next-most experienced player is (junior guard) Joanne (Allen-Taylor), who averaged 17 minutes a game.”
Despite a limited sample size in 2019 from Allen-Taylor, the junior is expected to contribute this season after showing major growth during preseason practice. Allen-Taylor is a natural two guard, but she will also be seeing time as a point guard.
“Joanne played two guard here,” Schaefer said. “I recruited her as a point guard, and now I’m playing her at point. She’s having to reprogram her mind in that role as a point guard, but she can be a scoring point guard for us and give us some minutes there.”
The Longhorns have their biggest freshman class since 2018, all of whom will need to be game-ready, Collier said.
“The freshmen are developing,” Collier said. “As a freshman, it is hard to get adjusted, but I feel like what we are given right now with 2020, I feel like we’ve been given a lot of time over the summer to work on it. They’ll be ready. They are going to have to be ready.”