Welcome to the 2020 football season. What a weird offseason it was for everyone. There was not a summer camp circuit for players to go showcase their talents at. In-person recruiting came to a screeching halt and the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected everyone.
One of the biggest news announcements of the past week was The University of Texas vice president and athletic director Chris Del Conte's decision to not extend eight-year women's basketball coach Karen Aston's contract past its current August 31, 2020 end date.
Whenever a coaching change happens, there's immediately the question about who will succeed the previous leader. By Sunday, that person had been identified and hired. It was former Mississippi State and Sam Houston State head coach Vic Schaefer. The Austin native graduated from Houston Lutheran High School and later Texas A&M University before leading Mississippi State to the 2017 and 2018 NCAA championship games in his best coaching seasons to date.
A change at the head coaching position of a program usually affects the current lineup for years to come. Heading into the 2020-2021 season, seven of Texas' 12 players from the 2019-2020 campaign are eligible to come back. That includes guard Joanne Allen-Taylor, who graduated from Cypress Falls High School in 2018. She grew as a basketball player during Coach Aston's Texas tenure and will miss her because of that.
"She helped me grow by pushing me to not only work and better my game, but she challenged me to strive for the best on and off the court," Allen-Taylor said of Aston. "We had so much fun as a team together. The moment that sits with me the most...is how proud she was of us when we beat [nation No. 1] Stanford in December."
That's why it was hard to hear the news of Aston's departure. Allen-Taylor was at home when she received the call about it.
"Obviously, I was shocked and devastated," said Allen-Taylor. "Everything was running through my mind. I was hurt about it [and] it's still sad to think about."
Texas women's basketball recruits are other affected athletes. That includes the 2020 class, which signed before Aston's exit was announced. If nothing changes, the incoming talent will include Atascocita's Elyssa Coleman, Baytown Sterling's Precious Johnson, Westlake's Shay Holle, [Chatsworth, California] Sierra Canyon School's Ashley Chevalier and Harvard University graduate transfer Katie Benzan.
Coleman enjoyed her time with Aston during the recruiting process, including the day Aston saw one of Coleman's games in Virginia and offered her a spot on Texas' team.
"Being locked in my house, I've been on my phone way more," said Coleman. "I was scrolling on my timeline on Twitter and saw the article about her contract not being renewed. I was in complete shock since I've been talking to the staff all week."
But, the change to the program hasn't halted Coleman's excitement for the program or interest in being a Longhorn.
"Of course, I'm staying," said Coleman. "Mainly because I've made my decision on not only the coaching staff, but on how amazing The University of Texas is all the way around. I'm super excited for what the future has to hold for our program with such an accomplished coach like Vic Schaefer."
Along with Coleman, the Longhorns' women's basketball roster will feature a dedicated returner in Allen-Taylor.
"I'm definitely going to finish my college career at Texas," said Allen-Taylor. "I chose this school because I believed I can be [a] part of the best of both worlds, competing at a high level on the court and getting an engineering degree."
"I think everybody who plays for Texas wants to leave their mark," she continued. "I want to finish where I started and leave something behind that I can be proud of. I'm excited to get to know the new coaching staff. I know Coach Schaefer has plans to compete for championships, as well as I do, so I'm ready to get to work."
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