When the Longhorn basketball coaches need to take a break from handling the seven freshmen, they usually turn to fifth-year senior guard, Coco Reed, to temporarily relieve their duties.
A Houston native who took a medical redshirt freshman year (2001-02) after suffering a season- ending left knee injury, Reed's easy-going personality, contagious smile and tendency to laugh light-heartedly make her an prime candidate for the freshmen to comfortably relate to her injury experiences and learn from her savvy basketball knowledge.
Reed is steadfast in her approach to her rehab and her in approach to the game and her teammates.
"Coco is a special person in the sense that she really loves UT and she totally cares about the team," said assistant coach Kathy Harston. "She's very knowledgeable about the Big 12 system and our opponents; she's a real veteran out there for us. Our program is really going to miss Coco. She really has paid attention and has bought into everything we do here to help our student-athletes be successful."
"When you come to Texas, the coaches stress defense, defense, and defense, and that's when I figured it out that it doesn't matter who you are and how highly-touted you were coming out of high school, if you can't play defense, Coach Conradt will switch you out," noted Reed. "I remember when I came here to play, I couldn't play defense to save my life, but I figured that if I want to be out on the floor, I better learn how to play it. The coaches are really good at teaching us how exactly to defend our opponents."
The oldest of Riley and Felecia Reed's five children, Coco not only has to look after the seven "basketball babies", her affectionate term for the UT freshmen, but she also has her family back in Houston counting on her to succeed in everything she does.
"It's a great privilege to play basketball for Texas. No one in my family has ever accomplished anything like playing Division I basketball, so just having my family being proud of me and seeing me working hard in basketball and in school, it gives me great pleasure," remarked the 5-11 shooting guard.
Coco has had two major challenges as a Longhorn - to overcome her chronic, nagging knee injury that will never heal, and to learn correct study techniques to excel in the classroom. Impressively, she has done both.
After five years of rehabilitating her knee daily, Reed knows her limits and how far she can test them.
"I have to limit my practice time because of knee injuries," Reed said. "When it's feeling fine, I go out there and give full effort; if I have to back off, then I do just that. It was frustrating at first, but the truth is this knee is always going to have problems. Recently, I finally was approved to play without my knee brace in games, and that's really exciting!"
In the Texas media guide, Coco describes herself as "a competitor, fearless and energetic" on the court, and "funny and laid-back" off the hardwood. Yet, "competitor" can also be used to describe Reed in her off-court activities.
Reed's competitive nature and achievements extend into the classroom as well. Her proudest moments have come from earning Big 121 All-Academic Second Team honors last year and being named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll four semesters. Coco is on track to graduate with a degree in education/sport management. After interning with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in Austin this past fall, Reed is closing in on her undergraduate degree. This semester, she is taking one class (Theories of Persuasion), and serves as a teacher's assistant for another.
"My mom is proud of me, Coach Conradt is proud of me, and it's a tremendous feeling to see people like Coach and my mom pleased with what I've done," said Reed, in regard to the academic honors. "When I came here, I did not think it was going to be an academic struggle, but obviously it was at first. With the great academic support staff here, especially Randa Ryan [Senior Associate AD/Student Services], they've helped out a ton turning me into a 'student-athlete'. "
With no future basketball plans, Coco hopes to work in a professional sports management office. Her dream job? With one of the Houston pro teams.
"If the Texans, Astros, Comets, or Rockets would offer me a job, I'd instantly take it because I'd be working in my favorite city, my hometown. Overall, I'd just love to work with any professional sports organization," said Reed.
Future goals aside, Reed says she still has much work to do on the basketball court first.
"I'm trying to teach the freshmen about the Big 12 and how tough it is every game," explained Reed. "They have to focus their great energy. The biggest problem is that they don't realize every conference team wants to beat Texas, whether we're ranked or not."
Reed has used her vast experience and calm court presence to see action in 14 games to date. She averages 13.5 minutes a game and is shooting 50 percent from the floor. She is critical to the Longhorn coaches for her ability to get on the court and re-group the team.
"She gives us a sense of calm every time she enters, because there are no surprises with Coco," Harston stated. "You always know what she's going to do; you can count on here to be in the right place and count on her to help get others in the right place."
When Reed graduates, she leaves a legacy of perseverance at the Forty Acres. Reed has patiently and positively hit the books while enduring rehab session after session and practice after practice.
Through it all, Reed remains grateful and philosophical.
"And, if there's anything I've learned from my basketball experience, it is that there are hundreds of basketball players around the nation who would want my spot on this team. I try and tell the freshmen and recruits how fortunate we are to be at a great school like UT," Reed concluded.
And, head Coach Jody Conradt herself in grateful to have coached Reed.
"Coco is a special. I've watched her improve in basketball, in the classroom, in relationships with people, and she has become a mature young woman," noted Conradt. "Coco is very team- oriented and self-motivated in everything she does. She will be one of the players who I will miss the most."
And, this steady and mature presence of Reed in the program has helped the Longhorns go 6-3 in their last nine games.
"We're finally growing up and playing better together. We're tired of losing and you can't lose games and talk about winning the Big 12 at the same time," Reed noted. "Right now we're trying to be more positive and remember that every game is going to be a dogfight.
"No one would have expected the current Big 12 standings, and the door is wide open for any team to win the title. We have a second chance right now to make a move, and not too many teams get second chances. So, if we cap on this opportunity and win all out, which we can do, we might be playing for the Big 12 championship and beyond," concluded Reed.
And Coco Reed is a big reason the Longhorns are making steady and positive progress towards their championship goals this season.