Freshmen Mattox and Nash to play in TGCA Women's Basketball All-Star game
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas incoming freshmen women's basketball players Gabriell (Gabby) Mattox and Kristen Nash have spent their summer getting a jump start on their collegiate basketball and academic careers. Prepping for the demands of full-time college life, they have left the friendly confines of their Texas hometowns - Kountze, for Mattox, and Plano, for Nash - and are taking summer school classes in both session of summer school in Austin under NCAA rules which have allowed this practice over the past few years.
Now, both All-State standouts will step away from being "Longhorns" and will return back to their high school roots when they participate in the Texas Girls Coaches Association's (TGCA) High School Basketball All-Star Game on Thursday, July 13 at the at the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on the TCU campus in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mattox, an All-State 5-11 guard/forward from Kountze, Texas and Kountze High School, plays in the State 1A-2A-3A (small school) all-star game, while All-State standout Nash, a 6-2 forward from Plano, Texas and Plano West HS, competes in the State 4A-5A (large school) contest on July 13. The 1A-2A-3A all-star game, which pits a North Team against the South Team, begins at 5:30 p.m. (Central), while the 4A-5A game begins at 7:30 p.m.
Nash and Mattox are two of UT basketball head coach Jody Conradt's four nationally-recognized recruits for the 2006-07 season. Both are coming off tremendous All-State seasons, as Nash led her Plano West squad to the Texas 5A State Championship, while Mattox's Kountze squad advanced to the State Tournament 2A semifinals for the third time in four years. Both incoming Longhorns were candidates for McDonald All-America Team honors.
Nash will play for the 4A-5A North Team, coached by De Soto High School head coach Larry Goad. The South Team will be coached by San Antonio Warren's Wendy Mead. Mattox competes on the TGCA's smaller school division South Team, which will be led by China Spring head coach Teresa Durham. The North Team is coached by Steve Schmidt from Argyle High School.
This All-Star Game duo are two of the quartet of talented incoming freshmen for Conradt, as the 2006-07 recruiting class is ranked in the top 10 nationally. Nash and Mattox will be joined by 6-0 guard Brittainey Raven (Ft. Worth/North Crowley HS), a consensus All-American who recently starred on the USA Basketball Women's U18 National Team which won the golf medal at the FIBA America's U18 Championship For Women, and All-State 6-1 guard Niqky Hughes (Waxahachie, Waxahachie HS).
Both Nash and Mattox are looking forward to playing in the All-Star classic and meeting up with other freshmen-to-be players. They feel confident that their strength and conditioning workouts all summer long with UT basketball coaches Todd Wright and Chris Braden (the only permissible coaches to work with student-athletes during the summer) will make a difference as they take to the court on Thursday night.
"I'm really excited to meet up with players I've known for a while, and I am anxious to see how much improvement I've made since coming to UT this summer," noted Mattox. "I know that Kristen and I will be ready to play, because I cannot believe any other of the All-Star players will have gone through the conditioning workouts we've done this summer!"
Nash agreed. "It was really difficult to adjust to everything here at Texas when I came to first session of summer school, but I am glad we can make the transition now from being a high school student to a college one. I know that I've benefited a lot already in the weight room. Each one of us focuses on different things. For me, it's all about getting stronger, especially in my upper body. For Gabby, she is working on getting quicker and having more endurance."
Both of them reflected on what it's been like to make the transition from the comfort of their hometown and high school lives to coming to Austin for the summer to get an important "jump start" on their collegiate academic and athletic careers.
"The biggest adjustment for me has been the fact that we have to go all day long, with classes, workouts, study halls, and then pickup games at night," said Mattox, who starred for 2A powerhouse Kountze where she earned All-State honors for four years in basketball, leading Kountze to Austin and the Frank Erwin Center for the Texas State Championships (final four) as a freshman, junior and senior. "I knew it would be tiring, but I am really getting used to it. I am confident that this is really going to help us adjust to the fall semester."
"I cannot imagine if I had to come in and start new in the fall without this time to adjust to college life and make the transition to college classes. It would be so stressful!", concluded Mattox, who also earned Academic All-State honors in both volleyball and basketball to go along with All-State playing honors in both sports.
This year, Kountze (25-9) lost to Wall, 44-39, in the State 2A semifinals despite Mattox's game-highs of 28 points and 15 rebounds. Mattox was tabbed the 2006 Beaumont Enterprise Super Gold Team MVP in 2006, as the publication named her the top athlete in the Southeastern portion of the state.
Nash comes to UT as a heralded frontcourt player who averaged 17.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting .570 from the field as a senior. She ended her State-championship senior season by helping Plano West (35-6) to its first 5A title, as the Wolves defeated Rockwall, 54-47, in the state finals. Nash had nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds in that title contest.
Plano West, which won a school-record 35 games and ended the year with a 14-game win streak, was ranked No. 20 nationally at season's end in the SportsIllustrated.com's national high school power rankings. In the USA Today Super 25 high school rankings, Plano West finished the year ranked fifth in the South Region.
Both Nash and Mattox admit to bouts of homesickness while in Austin, and both were quick to point out that if they could take anything to UT from their hometown it would be their families. Gabby and Kristen will have family members present on July 13 in Fort Worth to watch the TGCA All-Star games, which should help cure that homesickness a bit.
"When I first got here, I was really homesick for my family," noted Nash, who finished her high school career collecting over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. "It's been quite the adjustment, but my family has made a few trips down to visit me, which I appreciate. But, I am so happy to have come here and made the transition to college life over the summer. It is stressful, and I am thankful that we've had this early time to adjust to the workload with our classes and basketball. It gives us an idea of what's coming up this fall and give us confidence to do it."
Nash is spending the summer as the roommate of current sophomore guard Erika Arriaran.
Kristen gives Erika high praise for "helping lead us around, whether it be in the pickup games, in conditioning, or just giving us advice, when she's not on her cell phone, of course!"
Both are taking the same classes in the second session of summer school - anthropology and psychology.
"I am learning to use my study hall time wisely, and learning better study techniques," noted Mattox, who is rooming for the summer with UT sophomore guard Earnie Williams. "Earnie has been a great roommate as well, really helping me adjust. By watching her and listening to others, the freshmen are trying to avoid some mistakes that the other players made as freshmen. We have heard horror stories from them about the mistakes they made, and about the 'do's and don't's' as a Longhorn basketball player."
Nash also will participate in the annual TGCA Texas-Oklahoma High School Girls All-Star game scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 22 at Lubbock Christian University's Rip Griffin Center. The Texas-Oklahoma All-Star Game had been on hiatus since 1981, until it was revived in 2002. The site of the event has since alternated from Lubbock to Norman, Okla., with each all-star team winning on its home floor. The series, since returning in 2002, is tied at two wins apiece.
And following that July 22nd high school all-star classic, Nash will join the other three Longhorn newcomers as they all turn their attentions to the collegiate scene on a full-time basis.