Ashley Roberts

Senior guard Ashley Roberts fought through injuries and navigated junior college on her way to Texas, and her journey has played a large role in her desire to coach.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Season-ending injuries are always devastating. But for senior guard Ashley Roberts, whose only season as a Longhorn came to an abrupt end after suffering a left knee injury in January, it might have been for the better.

“It definitely made me really want to be a coach,” Roberts said. “It made me watch a lot, and I was able to see things the coach saw. I was able to talk to players and help coach them because I have a lot of knowledge about basketball.”

The injury wasn’t Roberts’ first major physical setback. The All-District second teamer from Duncanville also tore her ACL before graduating from high school, limiting her recruiting offers.

Roberts attended South Plains Junior College for two seasons as a stepping stone while she healed, taking the lead in the program. She received MVP and Offensive MVP honors twice, was a two-time All-Conference First Team guard and was named to the All-Region and Honorable Mention All-American teams.

But starring at junior college wasn’t the end goal for a career that began at age 5. The junior-college star got an opportunity to play for the Longhorns.

“It was a great choice for me because I ended up here, but the transition was a big deal,” Roberts said. “It’s more fast-paced. We have things to do every day, all day, [which] is totally different than junior college.”

Roberts joined her cousin, sophomore guard Empress Davenport, in representing Duncanville for the Longhorns. Teaming up with family wasn’t anything new, though, because Roberts had spent her whole life surrounded by two brothers engrossed in basketball, a father who was in love with the game and a mother who formerly played volleyball.

“It’s just normal, I guess,” Roberts said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time so it’s nothing special.” 

Roberts said adjusting to a new coaching staff and young teammates in her first season at Texas was difficult, but she saw the fruits of her labor.

“My first year here [had] a lot of adversity … and it was hard at times,” Roberts said. “This year was totally different. We overcame things and got big results out of it.”

Head coach Karen Aston said Roberts and senior forward Gigi Mazionyte, who also transferred from junior college, contributed significantly to the program’s major turnaround. The Longhorns finished 22-12 this season, rebounding from last year’s dismal 12-18 record.

“[Roberts and Mazionyte] came here to help us try to get the program on track,” Aston said. “They have sacrificed minutes, but they’ve always been positive and had the same goal as when they came here.”

Roberts peaked early in her Texas career, during her only 16 games while healthy during her junior year. Although she averaged just 5.3 points per game, she did finish with a team-high .417 3-point field-goal percentage.

When Roberts walks the stage in May, an occasion she called “bittersweet,” her time at Texas will be defined by more than her stats on the court. She takes pride in completing her college degree and knows that coaching situations will be the impetus for her future career.

Roberts plans to attend a coaching symposium in Florida next month as she searches for a position as a graduate assistant or coach. She said she will also consider returning to Duncanville High School to coach under Longhorn legend Cathy Self-Morgan.

“[Self-Morgan] is a person who can help me get a job or who I could actually work for,” Roberts said. “I’ve known I wanted to be a coach since I was in high school. I love basketball, and if I can’t physically play basketball, I want to be around basketball.”

Senior guard Chassidy Fussell drives to the basket during Texas' contest Monday night. Fussell was one of four seniors honored during Monday night's senior night. 

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

Tears filled the eyes of senior GiGi Mazionyte as she stepped onto the court squeezing tightly onto her family’s hands. The crowd cheered as the announcer announced that Mazionyte — along with seniors Chassidy Fussell, Helen Tau and Ashley Roberts — was playing in her final regular season game. 

It seemed fitting that No. 18 Oklahoma State was the regular season finale. The Longhorns opened conference play with a close 61-67 loss to the Cowgirls and closed it Monday night with a 65-58 win.

The win gives Texas the third spot in the Big 12 ranking going into postseason play but, more impressively, gives the Longhorns their 21st win of the season.

“I’m really proud of our basketball team tonight,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I have always thought, as a coach, that [20 wins] is the symbol of a good basketball team.”

Although it was a big game against a ranked opponent, it was important to Aston to honor her seniors. Tau and Roberts, who usually sit firmly on the bench for the majority of games, found their names on the starting roster Monday night. 

“I think that is something that those players always remember,” Aston said. “Some of them have not had the opportunity to run through that tunnel this year, so it was important to me, and I’m sure it was to them.”

Tau returned to the bench at the 17:40 minute mark with a smile stretched across her face and a cheer from the stands while Roberts trotted back with 16:29 to go in the first. Both eventually jogged back to the court with Texas in the lead with about 50 seconds left. 

“Just to see them smile — [especially Tau],” Fussell said. “She has the biggest smile on the team. We told her to shoot the ball. We didn’t care if she made it or missed. It’s just great to see my teammates out there.”

Texas started off the game quick and aggressive. Freshman forward Nekia Jones set the tone and brought up the energy within seconds of checking into the game with a 3-pointer immediately followed by an acrobatic layup. 

The second half got off to a slow start. The Longhorns were initially sloppy, misdirecting passes straight into the hands of Cowgirls. Oklahoma State fought hard to cut the Longhorns’ lead, but Texas pushed back just as hard to maintain the lead for its seniors.

“All we talked about before the game was just playing for the seniors, no matter what,” Fussell said.

Freshman corner Imani McGee-Stafford shoots in Friday’s 79-30 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi. McGee-Stafford had 20 points and 11 rebounds. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Defense wins championships, and on Friday it destroyed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The Texas Longhorns defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 79-30 behind freshman Imani McGee-Stafford’s 20 points and 11 rebounds, improving to 5-0 for the season. The No. 13 team in the land stifled the Islanders with constant pressure early, holding them to 9 points on 9.7 percent shooting in the first half.

“I’ve been continually impressed with how our team has started games,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I really love teams that are ready to play when the tip happens and I’m a big believer in setting a tone in the first four or five minutes of a game. I’m impressed with how we’ve done that.”

Texas used its presence inside to punish the Islanders throughout the contest, out-rebounding them 58-35 while scoring 46 points in the low block to its opponent’s 9. The team also scored 21 second chance points to the Islanders’ 0, showcasing its ability to beat opponents on the glass and capitalize on their weaknesses.

Karen Aston has been pleased with the improved cohesiveness of her team as the season has progressed. After banding together to hold its opponents to the fewest points allowed by the squad since 2006, in addition to shooting 45.1 percent with 24 assists on the offensive end, Aston’s pleasure continues to grow.

“It’s very hard to keep the team as focused because we a have a lot of young players and they lose their focus quite often,” Aston said. “I’m really proud of Ashley [Roberts] from that standpoint because I can see she is starting to get more comfortable in our system and her maturity is going to help us down the stretch.”

In addition to dominating the post, Texas played its signature style of basketball by controlling the tempo of the game while compiling 14 fast-break points. The guard play that has been a source for much of the team’s success in the past is emerging as a nice complement to the domination in the post.

“I think we are getting more comfortable playing with each other, we’re moving the ball a lot more and that’s why we are getting more assists each game,” junior guard Ashley Roberts said.

Roberts was a key to much of the success in this game, playing a season high 33 minutes while doing a bit of everything with nine points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals in her first start as a Longhorn. Junior guard Chelsea Bass also made quite an impact, scoring 11 points in her first game back since an injury sidelined her for much of last season.

“It was a really important and special game for me,” Bass said. “Coming back from injury has been a long road and I just wanted to come out and show that I have been working really hard to get back.”

Sophomore Nneka Enemkpali also extended her streak of consecutive double-doubles by posting 11 points and 18 rebounds. Her five consecutive double-doubles ties her for the most in program history.

The Longhorns will carry their 5-0 record into a battle with UCLA Saturday.

Printed on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 as: Horns dominate on defense