basketball head coach

Senior forward Nneka Enemkpali suffered a season-ending injury in the first half of Texas' 75-58 loss against Baylor. Texas' third loss in four games keeps head coach Karen Aston searching for her 150th career win.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Regulars in the audience at the Frank Erwin Center know that women’s basketball head coach Karen Aston finds it hard to sit still, even in the best of circumstances. Aston can almost always be found squatting, pacing or bouncing around chairs on the sidelines — unable to contain her noteworthy enthusiasm.

Aston is only the fourth coach for the program and in her eighth season overall as a head coach. In Waco on Monday, her Longhorns attempted to earn her 150th career victory — and fell short, largely because senior forward Nneka Enemkpali tore her ACL before halftime.

As Aston watched from the sidelines, hands over her mouth, No. 8 Texas lost, 75-58, against No. 3 Baylor.

Aston is one of the best-known female coaches in Texas, and she’s on the brink of a great victory — but considering the Longhorns have lost three of their last four games, Aston’s upcoming career milestone is probably not her focus. And as a decorated Longhorn coach, Aston can be certain her day will come soon.

What Aston is focused on is Enemkpali, whose injury represents a much more urgent concern for the team as a whole. 

Enemkpali has been on a hot streak lately, a large part of Texas’ 13-0 start to the season. As Aston worked to rebuild the program, she relied upon Enemkpali, an All-American candidate and Big 12 leader in rebounds.

Before her injury early in the game Monday, Enemkpali co-led the team with sophomore center Kelsey Lang at six rebounds each — but her ACL injury means her season is over.

“It is never easy to see a student-athlete’s career cut short like this,” Aston said. “My heart goes out to Nneka because she has grown so much during her career at the University of Texas.”

Aston, whose 150th victory is just around the corner, said she hopes Enemkpali will be by her side to watch when the Longhorns return to action.

“Nneka has been the heart of our program for quite some time, and, as we move forward, she will continue to play a vital role on this team from the sidelines,” Aston said.

The Longhorns have won 13 consecutive games at the Erwin Center, but going forward, Enemkpali will not be able to rebound and assist. When Texas faces off against Iowa State in Austin on Sunday, it will do so without its veteran forward. Iowa State defeated Texas earlier this season with a 2-point lead at the buzzer. 

Enemkpali ends her collegiate career ranked ninth in total rebounds, 30th in total points for Texas, and currently holds first place in the Big 12 for rebounds.

Men's basketball coach Rick Barnes, entering his 17th season in Austin, recently earned an extension through 2019.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After bounce back years for men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes and baseball head coach Augie Garrido, the two were awarded two-year contract extensions Thursday from the Board of Regents.

Ten months ago, though, it seemed as if the two were on their way out. 

Last November, football head coach Mack Brown was near the end of another mediocre season — his fourth in a row, urging many fans to call for his firing.

At the same time, Barnes — coming off the first losing season for Texas since 1997, snapping a streak of 14 straight appearances in the NCAA tournament — watched exciting young forward Ioannis Papapetrou walk away early after watching Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond do the same a few months earlier. Texas men’s basketball was poised for, possibly, an even worse season.

And Garrido, 74, watched his team sputter to a 7-17 record in the Big 12, failing to make the Big 12 tournament, where only one team gets left out. It looked as though he was losing it.

And to cap it all off, the loyal DeLoss Dodds had stepped down as athletic director, and Steve Patterson took over. It seemed as if he would bring in his own men and start fresh in what was a low point in all three major programs. So, when Brown officially resigned just over a month later, it was only a matter of time before the search for a new baseball and basketball coach began.

However, things changed.

Garrido, beginning his 19th season at the helm, transformed a last place Big 12 team into the No. 3 team in the country and was one infield single away from an NCAA championship appearance. He carries on a legacy of long-tenured baseball coaches. He will be the fourth Texas baseball coach to reach 20 years by the end of his contract, joining Billy Disch (28), Bibb Falk (25) and Cliff Gustafson (29).

Garrido’s extension runs through the 2017 season at $1.04 million per year.

On the court, Barnes led a group of young, unsung Longhorns to a shocking 24-11 record and a thrilling NCAA tournament win. In addition, he now has a strong platform upon which to build. Barnes won’t lose a single player and adds superstar forward recruit Myles Turner, one of the biggest additions in the history of the program.

Barnes, entering his 17th year, will now earn $2.5 million annually through the 2018-2019 season. He is already the longest tenured coach in the history of the Texas program.

These extensions don’t guarantee both coaches will be around to see the end of the contracts. After the 2011 season, Brown was extended until 2020, but he never even got to see the midpoint of that contract after resigning under pressure.

The extensions do, though, give the two coaches security and, maybe even more importantly, reveal Patterson’s confidence in them.

Sophomore guard Empress Davenport throws up a shot during Texas' game against West Virginia on Saturday. The Longhorns travel to Lawrence, Kan., on Tuesday to try and record their first Big 12 road win. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Karen Aston, women’s basketball head coach, and the Longhorns know how to win a basketball game. They know how to beat ranked opponents, and they know how to outrebound, outscore, outplay and outlast conference and non-conference opponents alike.

But they haven’t figured out how to do it on the road.

Texas (13-6, 4-3 Big 12) has won 10 of its 11 home games this season, including four conference matches. But an unimpressive 1-4 road record reminds the team that it has yet to win a single conference away game. 

“[Our first match against West Virginia] was a road game and when they got the momentum, that made the difference,” Aston said Jan. 15 after the Longhorns’ first game against the Jayhawks. “Just like the Oklahoma game made a difference here. When we gained momentum late in the game, the crowd was tremendous for us.”

In a rematch against West Virginia on Saturday, Texas redeemed an overtime loss from earlier in the season. Junior forward Nneka Enemkpali paced the Longhorns with a conference-high 21 rebounds and 15 points.

Aston said that “execution down the stretch” and maintaining play during final minutes of games will make or break remaining conference matchups. Texas has shown a knack for mastering those toss-ups at home but has continued strong on the road. The Longhorns dropped each road conference match by single-digit margins.

“Right now our team is a little more comfortable at home,” Aston said after Texas’ first season matchup with Kansas at the Frank Erwin Center.

Texas did not trail the Jayhawks that game and recorded leads as high as 17 points. The Longhorns shot 47.1 percent in the first half and forced nine turnovers in that period alone. Yet protecting the ball wasn’t a task restricted to just half the court as Texas grabbed 22 offensive rebounds throughout the match.

“Texas was aggressive, they got us in transition and they got us on the glass,” Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson said after that game. “When you regress with those, those are the most aggressive things you can do is go get opportunities in transition and offensive rebounds.”

Numerous Longhorns contributed to securing the win against Kansas. But sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford led the team, scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbed nearly half the team’s boards. The Jayhawk defense had no answer.

“You have to get that [McGee-Stafford’s] head down and get more disruptive,” Henrickson said. “We have to be more active with her. We sat behind her.”

McGee-Stafford and the Longhorns will look to avoid any hints of their previous road woes as they aim to maintain the level of competition they showed the Jayhawks at home. 

They still know how to outrebound, outscore and outplay teams. And they’ve done it against Kansas. Tuesday night, Texas needs to show Kansas that maybe — just maybe — there is some place like home.

Men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes is already on the hunt for recruits for the class of 2012. Here’s a look at some of the potential future Longhorns.

Cameron Ridley — C, 6’10”, 245 lbs. (Fort Bend Bush HS, Richmond)

The only verbal commitment so far in the 2012 class is this five-star big man from Houston. Although Texas has drawn some top recruits over the past three seasons, the team hasn’t attracted a 6-foot-10 player of this caliber since LaMarcus Aldridge in 2004. Ridley, the nation’s No. 14 overall recruit according to Rivals.com, is considered a strong verbal commit to the program and an even stronger boost to the team’s fledgling class. He’s known for his offensive skill set in the low post and has a high ceiling with all of his physical gifts; a few seasons with Barnes and the Longhorn coaching staff, including strength guru Todd Wright, could turn Ridley into a beast on the block.

L.J. Rose — CG, 6’3”, 175 lbs. (Westbury Christian HS, Houston)

Rose is currently considering a number of schools and has received offers from Texas, Arizona, Memphis, Kentucky and Kansas. That’s quite a mouthful, especially considering that two of his AAU teammates have already committed (Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke) or are very close to doing so (J-Mychal Reese, Kansas). Rose is a sharp-shooting perimeter guard who may or may not play point at the next level. Regardless, he’s considered a superb ball handler and a creator on offense. Texas will heavily pursue him as current players Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph could possibly leave this summer or next.

Marcus Smart — G/F, 6’4”, 200 lbs. (Flower Mound HS, Flower Mound)

Smart’s commitment is still up in the air, having shown interest in most Big 12 teams. This season’s Texas Gatorade Player of the Year is listed as a small forward but might not be big enough to play that position in college. The last thing you need to worry about with him is tenacity, as Smart is regarded as a knock-down, team-first player who will do whatever it takes to win. He’s a slightly atypical guard but possesses a strong enough outside shot and defensive skills to allow him to work as a third perimeter player or backup swingman. The biggest upsides to Smart are his work ethic and sheer athleticism — for evidence of this, try doing a search on YouTube for “Marcus Smart rebound dunk.” Basketball fans can start salivating now.

Tall. Athletic. Agile. Versatile. Good passer. Great teammate. High IQ. Good court vision.
Left unlabeled, a recruiting profile with those characteristics could fall on the desk of either volleyball head coach Jerritt Elliott or women’s basketball head coach Gail Goestenkors.

Consequently, several Longhorns have illustrious memories on both courts from back in their high school days.

Junior middle blocker Rachael Adams was a dual-sport athlete at Mount Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her senior year, Adams not only led her team to a volleyball state
championship but notched a basketball one as well. “There’s a couple of [former basketball players] on the team,” Adams said. “They’re all tall. They should’ve all played basketball.”

Others on the team include freshman setter Hannah Allison, junior outside hitter Amber Roberson and sophomore outside hitter Bailey Webster. And while hard work and dedication have helped guide their success at this level, being blessed with natural height and athleticism takes a little luck in the genetic lottery, as many members of the team come from a ackground of basketball prowess in the family.

Webster was a four-year letterman on the St. Paul School for Girls’ basketball team in Baltimore, Md. and garnered all-county honors her junior year. Her father, Elton, played two years ofbasketball at Tulane while her mother, Cedrina, played four years at Xavier.

Adams’ father Rich starred at Illinois before being drafted in the fourth round of the 1978 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs — which, coincidentally, was co-owned by current UT business school namesake Red McCombs at the time.

For Roberson, basketball is a full-blown family affair. Both of her parents attended New Mexico State, with her father, John, playing basketball and her mother, Lisa, a volleyball player. John’s sport seems to be winning the battle as most of Roberson’s six brothers and sisters chose basketball. Her older sister, Ashlee, played at Texas Tech and garnered Big 12 honors her senior year. Her brother, Andre, played his first game for Colorado last week, posting six points and 11 rebounds. And her sister, Arielle, is one of the most sought-after high school seniors in the nation, weighing offers from powerhouses including Texas.

Though ultimately choosing volleyball, Roberson was far from a shabby basketball player herself, leading Wagner High School in San Antonio to a state semifinal her senior year in lieu of garnering all-state honors. She said her childhood had its fair share of games of 21 and inter-family tournaments.

“We competed a lot,” Roberson said. “It was fun but sometimes there were tears. Usually, [my family is] talking about basketball 24/7, maybe volleyball one percent of the time. They’re still all supportive of me playing volleyball though, especially my mom.”

Allison was actually discouraged to continue playing basketball by her mom, Kelly, who starred at Baylor.

“My mom thought it’d be better I not play a contact sport for the rest of my life because I’m pretty competitive,” Allison said. “I try to keep them separate, but I love both of them. They’re just different.”

The easy-going Roberson said volleyball had always just been more fun.

“Honestly, a couple of us [on the team] have talked about basketball but nothing really drastic,” Roberson said. “Volleyball seemed my sport because it fits my personality.”

While Roberson chose the sport because it fit, Adams had her own reasons.

“I got to a point where the girls started getting bigger and sweatier, and I was like, I’m done,” Adams said.

Elliott said despite common skill sets, fewer athletes these days do both sports because of scheduling. Elliott tries to seek out athletes that will compete physically at the college level.

“The way it’s going now with sports is that you have to pick and choose at an early age because of AAU and club volleyball, and it’s hard to do both,” Elliott said. “We’re fortunate that a lot of these girls have picked volleyball but a lot of them stay with basketball too. It just shows that they’re multidimensional athletes.”