March 2, 2009
Jonathan Mann, Texas Media Relations
Monday's home basketball game against Baylor will see two Longhorn seniors bid farewell to the UT program.
As the curtain draws on their collegiate careers, guard A.J. Abrams and forward/center Connor Atchley find themselves frequently replaying their experiences on the 40 acres. Each player admits being torn between anticipation for the future and nostalgia for the past.
"It's gone by pretty fast actually," says Abrams, who decided to come to Texas after starring at local Round Rock McNeil High School. "I've got mixed feelings about it. I'm kind of ready to be done, but I also don't want to leave. But you've got to leave sometime."
In his time at Texas, Abrams has become one of the nation's best players, earning a spot on the Naismith Midseason Top 30 watch list for the last two seasons. Much of his development can be credited to head coach Rick Barnes, according to Abrams.
"He's helped me a lot," Abrams says of Barnes. "He's helped me grow up, mature as a basketball player and a person. He's always told me the truth. Sometimes you don't want to hear it, but he's always done that. I could thank him every day for that."
While Abrams has made his mark on the school record books as the career leader in 3-pointers, games played and minutes, while currently ranking in the top 10 in scoring, 3-point percentage, free throw percentage and steals, he'd like to be remembered for more than merely his statistics.
"Everybody is going to look and see that I was a shooter, but I want to be remembered as a guy who was a good player, but a good all-around person as well," Abrams says.
Atchley, who is on campus for his fifth year after taking a redshirt during his first season, will have a hard time leaving behind the people he's drawn close to in his time at UT.
"For five years, I've been building relationships here," Atchley says. "It is kind of sad to move on, and not see the people you see every day. At the same time, it's time to move on and see where my life will go."
Like many college students, Atchley has learned about himself during his time spent in Austin. He admits he has experienced a transformation from the 18-year-old kid preparing to move in to Blanton Dormitory in 2004.
"I wouldn't change anything," Atchley says of his collegiate experience. "If I could do it all over again, I think I would do it exactly the same. It's all definitely memories I'll have for a lifetime, and I'm happy with that."
Perhaps the most important thing the 6-foot-10 senior has learned is the value of being proactive.
"If you're someone who works hard and is dedicated, it pays," Atchley says. "You can't just hope something is going to happen. If you want something in life, you have to make it happen."
Being the oldest player on the Longhorns squad, Atchley has taken advantage of his experience by helping younger plays develop both physically and mentally.
"I've been around and learned a lot of different things," Atchley says. "There's still more to come, but being in Austin and around The University, there are things I can tell the younger guys. More than anything, I'm just there if they want to ask questions. They always know they can come ask me, and I'm there to help them."
In his final season as a Longhorn, Abrams has found himself embracing his last go-round in everything. His last home game on Monday will be no exception, but Abrams is also looking ahead to finishing out his senior campaign in strong fashion.
"I'm not ready for it to be over," Abrams says of his season and career. "We're going not going to hold anything back and make a run at it."