When sophomore guard Brady Sanders suits up for each game, she knows she owes more than 40 minutes of play to her teammates.
As the self-described “energy player” on the team, Sanders doesn’t just average the most minutes (25.8) on the court. And she doesn’t just boast the best 3-point field goal percentage on the team. Sanders makes sure that before the game, during and after, she’s the loudest and proudest competitor there is.
“I hope [competitors] say, ‘That girl never stops,’” Sanders said. “‘She plays 40 minutes, she’ll keep going at you even if her shot’s not falling and she’s an energy player.’”
More often than not, Sanders’ shot is falling. Averaging 11.8 points per game through the last four games, she executes her own offense. But she also feeds her teammates both words of encouragement and the ball. Against Texas Tech, Sanders led the team with four assists. It is those fundamentals she takes pride in.
“I make the hustle plays, do the little things that sometimes goes unnoticed but to me and to the team, I know they’re important,” Sanders said. “As long as everyone’s contributing to the team, I’m not the type of person to need all the attention.”
And yet, Sanders garners significant attention from her teammates as she emerges as the vocal leader of the team. She said the personalities among the team require her to “yell to get her voice heard.” But head coach Karen Aston sets Sanders’ words apart from her teammates.
“She’s very loud, doesn’t mind talking a lot on defense and ‘leading,’ so to say,” Aston said. “[She] understands that’s what her role is.”
Sanders doesn’t just sport a loud voice. She’s naturally animated, too, whether it’s her fist pump or kicking her legs after drawing a charge.
“I can’t control what I do,” Sanders said. “I just get so excited and caught up in the moment — literally something just comes over me. I just have a huge passion for basketball and even if it’s not me doing something good, I just get so excited for my teammates.”
Sanders’ teammates get excited for her, too. They’ve grown together since last year, as they play what Aston describes as a “maturity game.” Fellow sophomore Empress Davenport said they’ve learned together.
“Since we clocked so many minutes [last year], we know what to expect,” Davenport said.
But in its first season matchup against Iowa State on Sunday, Texas might not know what to expect. Before the Longhorns adjusted to the “maturity game,” the Cyclones swept them last season en route to a second-place finish in the Big 12. Texas (15-7, 6-4) has grown since then — and the team is just inches ahead of Iowa State (16-6, 5-6) in the competition.
Sanders thinks her team “beat ourselves in the games we lost,” and doesn’t think “there’s a limit on what we can be.” Come Sunday, Sanders will see how long Texas’ growth spurt will actually last.