DeYona Gaston finds success taking in new responsibilities, leadership roles as veteran team member

Emma Hutchinson, Senior Sports Reporter

Ever since his arrival three years ago, Texas women’s basketball head coach Vic Schaefer has carried the same tough love attitude through every season. 

And junior forward DeYona Gaston has been there for it all. 

The Pearland, Texas product is one of two remaining players on the team from Schaefer’s 2020 recruiting class, alongside junior guard Shay Holle. 

This year, Gaston has taken on a new role of leadership that she’s prepared for, one that allows her to flaunt her personality and potential on the court. But her confidence wasn’t always this prominent, according to Schaefer.   

“De has matured, she’s able to take coaching, she wants responsibility,” Schaefer said. “She’s asked questions now that she would have never dreamed of asking before.” 

Coming out of her freshman year, Gaston appeared in 11 matchups with three starts, averaging 6.6 points per game. It wasn’t until her sophomore season when she finally found her rhythm, making 28 starts and tallying 11 double-digit scoring performances. 

Since then, Gaston continues to dominate the scoreboard, ranking second in the Big 12 conference in field goal percentage with 53% accuracy. She currently averages 12.2 points per game, a 5.1 point uptick from her previous season. 

Gaston said she attributes the growth to her personal achievements, such as becoming more confident in her abilities of juggling being a student and an athlete.     

“I think I’ve finally started taking everything seriously and started maturing a little bit,” Gaston said. “I’m starting to get really good grades. I’ve been putting more shots up at practice.” 

With all the newfound success, Gaston said she’s accepted the responsibility of guiding the team with her veteran knowledge, especially in times when injuries have caused a major deficit in available players.  

“It’s a big responsibility because there’s people that don’t know about what he wants and there’s people who do know, like me,” Gaston said. “It’s not something I can’t handle.” 

Schaefer said he sees a resemblance between Gaston and former Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith, who now plays for the Indiana Fever in the WNBA.   

“She’s got a faceup game that NaLyssa had, and then she can play with her back to the basket like NaLyssa could,” Schaefer said. “Certainly, she’s got a ways to go to have the same skill set that NaLyssa Smith has. When I look at her and see her every day in practice and in games, she certainly reminds me that she has the potential to be that kind of player.” 

Gaston said she takes the comment as a motivating factor, one that pushes her to keep progressing in her skills in hopes of reaching the WNBA like Smith did. 

“If he thinks I can become her, that’s just more work I have to do,” Gaston said. “She’s become successful. She’s in the WNBA. So I just got to work as hard as she did to get there.” 

Even though Schaefer points out the similarities between the two, he recognizes the uniqueness of Gaston’s personality on and off the court. His praise for Gaston includes the amount of potential she radiates by simply being herself and coming out of her shell.    

“Her game is why I enjoy doing what I do,” Schaefer said. “Where she was two years ago to where she is today and knowing that she’s still got this much more to go and what that’s going to look like, I hope I’m here to see it. That’s how special that kid can be.”