Nash's 'last chance' lifts Women's Basketball
Feb. 18, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
Kristen Nash enjoyed the unique advantage of watching the game she loves from a new perspective. Perched a few rows behind the Texas bench inside the Frank Erwin Center, Nash looked as her Longhorns played out the early portion of their schedule.
And from this angle, she figured out where she belonged.
Nash’s contribution to the women’s basketball team has always been toughness and want-to. She squirms around the paint with pointy elbows and isn’t afraid to crash into an opponent while crashing the boards.
Watching the Longhorns fall at home to Tennessee in early December, Nash saw the Longhorns needed her grit, and it didn’t hurt that coach Gail Goestenkors validated that feeling.
After Nash elected last spring to forgo her final year of eligibility and focus on being a full-time graduate student, Goestenkors kept prodding Nash to reconsider. Another text message following UT’s loss to the Lady Vols hit the right chord.
Her father, Wayne, saw it coming. Every time he’d ask Kristen if she felt like making a comeback, her no’s grew a little less sincere.
“Finally, it felt right. The fact that Coach G asked so many times, it was nice. I wasn’t going to come back if I didn’t think I was needed or could be used,” Nash said. “I mean, I was out of shape.”
Nash hadn’t lifted one barbell since the Longhorns ended their season in the NCAA Tournament last March. She maintained her cardio fitness with spin classes and runs around Town Lake, and when her sister and roommate, Kathleen, left at 6 a.m. for practice and workouts, Nash happily rolled back over.
“I just kept thinking, ‘It’s so nice to be sleeping right now,’” she said.
When Nash elected to return, she asked assistant coach Ron Hughey, who works with the post players, if he would work her out the evening before her first practice. Nash was relieved during that session to learn that her shot hadn’t gone away, and the Longhorns learned the next day that neither had Nash’s will.
With no basketball in her legs for almost 10 months, Nash persevered through one of the season’s most physical practices, even though coaches kept offering a few breathers on the stationary bike.
“The one thing I saw from her from the first practice was heart,” Hughey said. “Once she got back, everything else fell into place. She didn’t care if it was AG she was guarding, her sister Kat, AT or even when I practice against her. I can say, ‘I got you Nash,’ and she’ll say ‘No you don’t!’”
Nash, who has started seven of 17 games, is enjoying her best season as a Longhorn. Her 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a game are career highs, and so are her 18.4 minutes per game. Nash points to Hughey’s positive voice in her ear as one of the reasons.
“He knows how to talk to players without bringing you down,” Nash said. “Hughey has taught me so much. I don’t think I’m a natural five player, but he’s teaching me post defense and post moves. He knows a lot about the position.
“And I’m glad, because this is my last chance.”