AUSTIN, Texas — A reinforcement is coming for the Texas women's basketball team ... not that playing with just nine players appeared to hold the Longhorns back in last week's routs over SMU and North Texas.
At Tuesday's press conference, head coach Vic Schaefer announced that point guard Kyra Lambert, a graduate transfer from Duke, would be available for Wednesday night's matchup against Louisiana Tech. Lambert, who has a history of knee injuries, was sidelined for the Horns' season-opening victories, although the cause and extent of the injury was not disclosed.
"Good news: she's probably going to see some minutes tomorrow night," Schaefer said of Lambert. "I don't know how many, but she's going to play a little bit. She's going to have some rust to knock off, but that's a kid that's been around a while. It won't take her too long. I'm excited for her. She's chomping at the bit."
For a squad with four freshman and only two players, Charli Collier and Celeste Taylor, who averaged more than 20 minutes last season, the addition of Lambert will add depth and experience. Her arrival could not have come at a better time, as Texas prepares to face No. 12 Texas A&M Sunday in Austin.
"I do worry about depth," Schaefer said. "It could be an issue."
"Could" is the key word there. In a way, Schaefer is glad that his team was put in this kind of situation, lacking depth and experience, early in the season. It has forced freshmen who might have ridden the bench for a season or two to step up and play significant minutes at the very beginning of their collegiate careers.
"We have four freshmen. That's a big load for a young person to take, throwing them into an A&M or a Tennessee (game) this early in their careers, but yet, it's beneficial come February and March. That's invaluable."
In addition, the foundation of this team is built on Collier and Taylor, two experienced players whose work ethic is strong and have helped the Longhorns avoid several of the pitfalls that come with a small roster.
"Depth is a little bit concerning, but at the same time, I do know my team now," Schaefer said. "I've got some kids that they don't want to come out of games. (Collier) doesn't want to come out of games. She is in as good of shape as anybody we got. She doesn't get tired, she doesn't want to come out, and I can appreciate that. Celeste is the same way. When you have players like that, as long as they can play effectively and efficiently, you probably don't want to take them out anyway."
The lack of depth does, at times, concern Schaefer, considering Lauren Ebo still is hoping to be cleared by the NCAA, Elyssa Coleman is out with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and Shae Routt has left the program.
Texas A&M is no SMU or North Texas. The Aggies, with whom Schaefer served as an assistant from 2003-12, are talented and have one or two proven players at every position on the floor.
Ebo, a Penn State transfer, has been a topic surrounding Texas for the past couple months. As Schaefer put it, "fight" is the best word to describe the battle his program is having with the NCAA, as Athletics Directors Chris Del Conte and Chris Plonsky, Schaefer and his coaching staff and others have all contributed to the effort to help Ebo receive the waiver granting immediate eligibility without having to sit out the required year that normally is required of players who transfer. Making things even more complicated and confusing for the Longhorns is the fact that several transfers have been approved to play immediately, while Ebo has not.
"It's really frustrating," said Schaefer on Tuesday. "We're now in a stage where we're continuing to fight for what we feel like is right for the kid. I'm at a place right here at Texas where we're going to fight for our kids. We've got administrators fighting, I'm doing everything I can. We're all trying to make a case for this kid because we feel like there is something justified.
"Unfortunately, I can't share a lot of the specifics right now, but at some point I'd be glad to. You look across the country and it is at a high percentage rate that kids are getting immediately eligible. There's even been some things sent out from our organization to all our coaches to ask them if they'd agree or disagree with them approving [the one-time transfer rule] across the country right now, because of Covid. You're going to need players at some point. You could potentially be down to four, five, six kids. That's not a healthy environment. I think we're all, including the NCAA, all about the kids, and we don't want to put them in a position where they can't be successful."
Shafer added that "we may have something by the end of the week," regarding Ebo. Time will only tell regarding the status of the 6-foot-4 forward, whose presence would certainly lessen the load on Collier.
But until then, Texas will continue to fight back against limited depth. The Horns journey ahead into several challenging non-conference matchups, beginning Wednesday against Louisiana Tech in a matchup of teams with identical 2-0 records. The game can be seen on the Longhorn Network.
"I would just say take it one game at a time," Collier said on Tuesday. "We have Tech tomorrow. I would say to approach it the same way we did the other games, with a good mindset and to win."