Honoring the past: 2003 Women's Basketball season
Jan. 25, 2013
Through the gift of reflection and perspective, both the strength and fortitude of the 2002-03 Texas Women's Basketball team come into focus.
The Longhorns advanced to the NCAA Final Four without a headlining national player of the year candidate or a go-to scorer. UT was magnetized by playing team basketball, mostly a collection of small-town Texas kids who simply had a huge sense of pride in being Longhorns.
"They carried the same purpose," said Karen Aston, then an assistant coach for UT. "They didn't care who got the credit, who made the pass or who made the basket. They cared about winning."
Point guard Jamie Carey, who transferred to UT after beginning her career at Stanford, provided head coach Jody Conradt with a lock-jawed disciplinarian on the court. She orchestrated the offense and was also a deft 3-point threat. Heather Schreiber complemented Carey's shooting ability, and post Stacy Stephens took ownership of every play that found its way to the paint.
More than those three, however, the Longhorns were a collection of talent and focus committed to returning UT to a national place of prominence. UT finished the 2002 season in the Sweet 16, the program's first NCAA appearance beyond the second round since an Elite Eight finish in 1990.
The 2002-03 season started off it spurts, as the Longhorns carried four losses as Big 12 Conference play began in early January.
Four dominant victories to start league play had the Longhorns ranked No. 17 as No. 7 Texas Tech came to town on Jan. 22. A 69-58 victory over the Lady Raiders gave Conradt the 800th win of her career, and the magic momentum seemed to propel UT.
The Longhorns won 13 of their next 14 games to take the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, and UT started the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed and ranked fifth in the nation.
"Every game was memorable for us. Every game had such a level of intensity, especially as the season went along," Aston said.
UT won its first four games of the NCAA Tournament each by double digit margins to set up a meeting with No. 3 LSU in the Elite Eight in Stanford, Calif. After a physical start, the Longhorns' perimeter shooters found a rhythm, and UT rolled to a 78-60 win.
"I can't remember a team performing any better in a crucial moment," Conradt said of UT's win against the Tigers. "It was one of the really fun teams to coach, and watching them enjoy the whole process was really special."
In the Final Four against Connecticut, the Longhorns maintained control through most of the game, before rising star Diana Taurasi keyed a second-half run that pushed UConn to a 71-69 win.
Ten years after the Longhorns' momentous march to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in Atlanta, symmetry and ascension have collided on the Forty Acres.
Aston, then the recruiting magician to head coach Conradt's storied stature on the sidelines, now holds the reins of the women's basketball program as only the fourth head coach in program history.
With her roots deep in Texas past and present, Aston is charged with bringing the synergy experienced in 2003 back to the Forty Acres.
"Leadership, passion - those are words that team lived by," Aston said. "The special part about that team is they were all leaders, and when you coach a little while, you understand the value of having more than one leader on a team. The whole team had a collective ownership of that season."
The 2003 Texas Women's Basketball team will be honored in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Longhorns' season-long march to Atlanta when the Longhorns host Kansas State on Jan. 26.
Here's a look at that year's team, and what they're doing now.
Jody Bell, 6-2 Forward
Then: Bell was sidelined most of her senior season after suffering a stress fracture in her left foot. During her first three years at Texas, she averaged 1.76 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
Now: Bell lives in the Austin area and works in marketing.
Kala Bowers, 6-2 Guard
Then: Bowers had huge impact on the team starting her freshman year. She averaged 21.4 minutes and nine points per game that season. During her four years at Texas, she averaged 23.3 minutes, 4.3 rebounds and 7.5 points per game.
She was second on the team with seven rebounds during Texas' loss to Connecticut in the Final Four.
Now: Bowers is a proud wife and mother, raising her family in the Lone Star State.
Jamie Carey, 5-6 Guard
Then: Carey began her collegiate career at Stanford, but was forced to take two years off from basketball with concussion-related symptons. She began playing again at Texas and guided the Longhorns to the Final Four in her first season,
She averaged 11.2 points per game during her three years at Texas. In 2005, her senior season, she was named All-Big 12 first team and was a candidate for National Player of the Year honors. She was also captain of the team.
Now: Carey was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with the 31st overall pick and played four seasons with the Connecticut Sun. She retired from professional basketball in 2009. She is now the Assistant National Team Director for the United States women's national team. Over the summer, she travelled to London with the team for the 2012 Olympics.
Tamra Cobbins, 5-4 Guard
Then: Cobbins was only a freshman when Texas went to the Final Four in 2003. She played in 19 games, averaging 1.7 points with a .419 field goal percentage. She finished her career with a .369 field goal percentage and 9.3 assists per game.
Now: She is now an academic admissions counselor at Concordia University in Austin.
Tai Dillard, 5-9 Guard
Then: Dillard was a senior when Texas made it to the Final Four in 2003. She was a key member of the team, starting 34 of 35 games and averaging 7.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
She led Texas to four NCAA tournaments during her career at Texas.
Now: Dillard played for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars from 2003-05. In 2004, she played for the Houston Stealth of the National Women's Basketball League and played in Israel from 2004-2005. She was an assistant with the UTSA women's basketball team and is now an assistant coach at Southern California.
Annissa Hastings, 6-2 Forward
Then: Hastings was the Longhorns vaunted defensive stopper, and could capably guard any of the five positions on the court. She averaged five points, 4.55 rebounds and 16.9 minutes per game while at Texas.
Now: Hastings is the women's basketball head coach at Stevens High School in San Antonio.
Nina Norman, 5-9 Guard
Then: As a freshman in the Final Four, Norman was the second leading scorer on the Longhorns with 14 points against Connecticut. That game foreshadowed a successful career at UT - she finished with more than 1,000 points and 400 assists during her career at Texas.
Her senior year, in 2006, she scored 12.4 points per game in Big 12 play and was Al-Big 12 Second Team. She averaged 28.6 minutes, 3.5 rebounds and 8.8 points per game during her career as a Longhorn.
Now: Norman coaches high school basketball.
Coco Reed, 5-11 Guard
Then: Reed suffered a season-ending left knee injury her freshman year and redshirted. She averaged 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds during her career at Texas.
Now: Reed coaches high school basketball.
Alisha Sare 5-8, Guard
Then: Sare, a senior in 2003, was a 3-point shooting specialist and led the team her freshman year with 69 three pointers. She finished her career as a Longhorn with an average of 5.4 points and 11.7 minutes per game.
Now: Sare works in Account Management at Venables Bell and Partners in San Francisco.
Heather Schreiber, 6-2 Forward
Then: Schrieber was an All-American at Texas. She started every game in her four years on the basketball team and averaged 12.7 points in her career. She was named to the All-Big 12 first team in 2003 and 2004 and was Big 12 freshman of the year in 2002. She was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks.
Now: Schreiber coaches high school basketball in Texas.
Stacy Stephens, 6-4 Center
Then: Stephens was first team Big 12 in 2003 and 2004 and an All American. She averaged 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds while at Texas. She finished her career with more than 1,000 points and rebounds. She scored 16 points in Texas' loss to Connecticut in the Final Four. She was drafted by the Houston Comets in 2004 and played professionally in the United States and overseas for four years.
Now: Stephens is a special assistant for the Texas Women's Basketball team. This is her first year in the position.
Mercedes Wiliams, 6-2 Forward
Then: During her career at Texas, Williams averaged 2.3 points, 2 rebounds and 7.4 minutes per game. She played in 25 games her senior year (2003) and shot 50 percent from the floor.
Now: Williams is pursuing her nursing degree.