Tonight, four Longhorn players take to the floor for their final regular season home game. The quartet of guards Tamra Cobbins, Nina Norman and Coco Reed along with forward Daria Mieloszynska recently recalled their favorite moments and reflected on their years at the Forty Acres.
"The greatest part of my tenure here is the building of friendships with my teammates and the relationships with the coaches," recalled the 5-3 Cobbins. "This is my family away from my biological family in Kansas City, Kansas. I have no blood kin here in Texas. My teammates are the only people I had to trust and to reach out to, and because of their love and support, I've got life-long friendships."
Norman, who will leave here as one of only five players in UT history to register over 1,000 points and 400 assists, spoke about her maturity.
"I have matured a lot. I was like the freshmen now four years ago - the coaches had to put up with a lot from me in order to help me get to be a better player and person," she laughed. "And what I know now is that your priorities are basketball, academics and planning what you will do with your life.
"My message to younger players is to take advantage of being here and connecting with staff, family and people around the program. Networking is important. Everyone is willing to help you start your career once you put in the hard academic work first."
Mieloszynska, who hails from Poznan, Poland, has great appreciation for everything TEXAS.
"I am so grateful to work with great coaches and with players from different backgrounds," the 6-2 forward said. "What I love the most about Texas is that it is a great academic school and that I am part of a family when I don't have one close by. And, I love that I could compete with players who have a passion for basketball like I do.
"I have listened to the advice from people who are better than me while I've been here, people like Heather Schreiber," Daria said. "She was my mentor, and pushed me and pressed me with advice and through example."
"Division I basketball was my dream in Poland. Not too many people get the chance to come to a school like UT and graduate and play for a legendary coach," Mieloszynska said. "I have great thanks for being given this opportunity."
Cobbins, Reed and Norman were instrumental in many UT winning moments the last three years: the 2003 Final Four run ... 2004 Final 16 finish ... Big 12 championships in 2003 and 2004. And, the disappointments of this season were on their minds as well.
"It's been a tough year, and you take the good with the bad in life," Reed said. "We've talked as a team about how we accept everything and carry ourselves well when we are winning, and how now we have to accept that we are losing and be strong people and carry ourselves the same way as we try and get better.
"I do want to give thanks to the fans for their great support as we've been up and down. They are here for the good and bad, encouraging us to keep our heads up and to keep working at it. They've stuck around and we appreciate that," Reed concluded.
"This senior year is not what any of us wanted, of course," Norman said with quiet resolve. "You have to take what you get, and work with what you have sometimes. The seniors have tried to teach the young players and learn from each other as well. I am anxious to see them come into their own and show the talent and success that we've had glimpses of this year. It is going to happen."
When asked about her favorite moments as a Longhorn, Cobbins remarked that "My special moments are not what you might think - they are not big game moments, but the little things. Our time as a team behind closed doors, in the locker rooms, on the bus, acting silly and dancing and singing pre-game - those are things I cherish the most."
Norman also will look at "behind-the-scenes" moments with fondness.
"It may surprise people, but my favorite UT moments happen in the summertime when we are all here on campus," she said. "That's when you can do your best work with your teammates. We are by ourselves except for working with the strength coaches. You are constantly with your teammates in class, in workouts, in pickup games, with them 24/7. That's when you get to see everyone connect and develop and welcome in the freshmen."
Reed points out that her finest Longhorn moment was the journey to the 2003 Final Four in Atlanta.
"The greatest accomplishment for me was when we made it to the Final Four," the 5-11 Reed said. "It was a tremendous opportunity to play in front of a sellout crowd against UConn. The best part was the way we played to get there - we were not expected to be in Atlanta, and had to go to Stanford and beat Minnesota and LSU. It was a thrilling experience every game."
All four of the players are facing the challenge of the working world when they graduate. Three of them have a jump-start on the business world. Norman, a corporate communications major, and Reed, an education/sport management major, graduate in May. Norman currently is interning at the Neighborhood Longhorns program, while Reed completed an internship last semester with the U.S. Tennis Association office in Austin.
Cobbins, a corporate communications major who did an internship with the University Federal Credit Union in Austin, will attend graduation ceremonies in May and get her degree in the summer. Mieloszynska, who transferred to UT, will finish up her Eastern European studies degree next winter.
"Now it's about my family and helping them out the best I can," Norman noted. "It's not going to be about basketball anymore. I hope to land a job in the Houston area this summer and help them out. They mean more to me than anything else."
"I have a big decision to make, since my visa to stay here expires in 2008," Mieloszynska said. "Do I stay in the U.S. and get a graduate degree in kinesiology, or go back home and play for the Polish National Team? It's a real-life decision I have to make soon."
And for Reed, her proudest personal achievements are the academic strides she took - strides and progress which set her up well for a future in sports management.
"My greatest accomplishments will be leaving Texas with a degree and a grade-point-average of over 3.0," Coco said. "I never really focused on academics until I came here - I just thought about basketball. Once here, I was inspired and motivated by my coaches and particularly my first academic counselor, Ilrey Sparks. Then (Senior Associate AD for Student Affairs) Randa Ryan took me under her wings. They all taught me that I do have the ability to excel. Now, I'm ready to make that next step."
"Lots of people encouraged me to go to a smaller school where I could play a lot, and even though my college basketball career was not what some people imagined for me, I believe it was by Divine appointment to be here," remarked Cobbins. "Everything turned around for the best in my four years here. I find myself thinking, 'can I just stay on this team for a long time?' To be honest, I almost feel like a Texan! That's the kind of impact UT and this basketball team have had."
"I am really going to miss these four seniors," noted UT head coach Jody Conradt. "As a group, they represent the best of what student-athletes can be. They are appreciative of every opportunity and resource we have at Texas. They've worked very very hard in basketball. Academically, all of them are a success story. They volunteer and give back in the community. They've guided the freshmen especially well, and each of them has been a great leader and mentor for our young team."