For many, 196 miles is simply the distance from Austin to Dallas. For the Longhorns, 196 miles marks the distance standing between them and the Final Four, which will be hosted in Dallas.
With a 31-win season in the books and new assets in the mix, the Longhorns are optimistic about reaching that goal.
Part of that optimism stems from the team’s influx of young talent over the past two years. Head coach Karen Aston has compiled a variety of promising players on the roster, welcoming two consecutive top-six recruiting classes after making the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, respectively.
But the team’s success isn’t the only factor in her recruiting prowess. Aston said the city of Austin and the University recruit themselves.
“I think this is a really special environment for a student-athlete,” Aston said. “Texas has a great reputation academically and athletically, and I think the brand that goes along with being a Longhorn is really special.”
Along with the city of Austin and the University’s appealing reputations, the program’s culture and environment help Aston woo prospects. She said she counts on her players to make a difference both on the court and in recruiting.
“The most important thing is the players,” Aston said. “That’s the biggest sell for us because we’ve been able to attract not only good basketball players, but quality young people that really have great values and work ethic. They have pride in what they do and they’re winners.”
Freshman guard Alecia Sutton said she was immediately drawn to Texas during her recruiting process because of the family-oriented system and instant support she felt from both players
“The factor that set this program apart was how family-oriented it is,” Sutton said. “I fell in love with the coaching staff and the players really fast and I just knew my heart was here.”
The tight-knit bond between teammates and coaches makes being a part of the program more than just a job for young players: It makes it feel like a home.
Senior center Kelsey Lang said the program feels like her “family” because of its inclusive nature.
“The environment that Coach Aston has built up people just want to come here because it’s so loving,” Lang said.
Lang said the team has high hopes this season, coming off its Elite Eight loss to UCONN.
And she believes the chemistry the team built off the court will help the team when the lights come on.
“‘Sister’ is the best word to describe every one of my teammates,” Lang said. “You can play with a team that you don’t really like and still do well on the court, but playing with a team that you just love and care about so much is going to make us play harder for one another.”