Finding Her Niche: Tamra Cobbins
In addition to bringing a quick style of play and tough defensive presence to the court, Longhorns junior guard Tamra Cobbins contributes another skill to team unity and fun - her tremendous vocal talent.
A talented vocalist and gifted athlete with exceptional basketball ability, 5-4 junior guard Tamra Cobbins has made her mark both on the court and off through two seasons at Texas. She is tenacious defender who brings intensity and passion to the Texas' basketball practice courts on a daily basis.
Yet, in addition to juggling college and a Division I basketball schedule with on-going success, Cobbins also shares a love of music - gospel to be specific - and as her coaches attest, Tamra's basketball skill may only be surpassed by her musical prowess.
"I'm telling you, the girl can sing," said assistant coach Kathy Harston, when asked about Cobbins' budding musical skill. "Tamra is very talented musically and, honestly, I know we all really enjoy listening to her."
Music has always been a constant in Tamra's life. The effervescent and energetic Cobbins, who fittingly is studying communications and public relations, grew up with gospel music a central force in her family life. She was a member the F.L. Schlagle HS choir and local church group in her hometown of Kansas City, Kansas.
Upon arriving at UT in the summer of 2002, it didn't take Cobbins long to find a new church home and gospel choir, joining the Morning Star Christian Church of Austin where she currently sings tenor alongside her current UT roommate Brittany Anderson.
"I love to sing and music has always been really important to me," said Cobbins. "When I came to Austin I was immediately involved with my church and I really feel like we are all family now. They have been a very important factor in my life here in Austin. They even come to games to support the team and me."
As for basketball, it hasn't taken long for Cobbins' love of gospel singing and enthusiasm for music to spill over into that aspect of her life. Always humming and singing to herself, Tamra's talents have come public.
At this year's annual UT Women's Athletics Hall of Honor luncheon in November, Tamra made her public UT musical debut as she paired with UT track standout Eve Dwyer and opened the program with an a capella rendition of "God Bless America" to a very appreciative audience.
Recently, Cobbins spearheaded a vocal quartet within her basketball team. The foursome of Cobbins, senior Annissa Hastings sophomore Tiffany Jackson and freshman Erneisha Bailey, by Cobbins as, "The Mighty Clouds of Zion," have intertwined their vocal skills to entertain the Longhorns' women's basketball travel squad.
"The Mighty Clouds of Zion was a fitting name because we sing a lot of gospel hymns and the name sounds like the name of an old-time gospel quartet," said Cobbins. "Occasionally, we'll have a guest appearance from Heather Schreiber or Jamie Carey, but for the most part it's just me, Erneisha, Tiffany and Annissa. We all compliment each other and the biggest thing is that we all understand that nobody is bigger than the group."
That's the way Tamra helps carry the team unity and team spirit theme from the court to the Longhorns' musical venue.
Particularly this season, Tamra also begun to come into her own on the court. She has spent her formative two-and-a-half years as the reserve point guard, behind Longhorn teammate and one of the country's best, in Carey.
Like most highly-regarded recruits, Cobbins came to Texas used to playing and with expectations of making immediate contributions, but has matured to understand her role as a player on the nation's No. 4 ranked team.
"On the court, we've been really pleased with the progress she has made this year as far as taking on more of a leadership role and being more consistent every single day in her preparation," added Harston. "Tamra is not totally comfortable - as is the case with most players - but she has grown into her role more. I think everyone on the team appreciates what she brings into it. Her passing has improved tremendously. She is leading the break a lot better and is distributing the ball a lot better on the break even in our half-court offense. And I think it all stems from Tamra being more comfortable with herself and her role."
To which assistant coach Travis Mays agreed.
"What Tamra brings to the court is a direct reflection of what she brings on the court," added Mays. "She brings excitement. The excitement that she brings to the court is her defensive pressure. She is quick and she makes something happen. Off the court, she is always smiling. She starts songs. She is always creating some type of excitement somehow somewhere."
At first, it was tough for Cobbins to settle into her role in her younger years at Texas. But as a third-year player for the reigning Big 12 champions, Tamra has now settled into her position and will, no doubt, be an essential component to the Longhorns' continuing success in 2004-05.
"I wouldn't say I am completely content with my role," explained Cobbins. "I think everybody wants to play as much as possible. My role has changed each year, and it has been a journey. But, I am always trying to be positive and bring energy everyday and make the best out of every situation."
It's that type of attitude that has allowed Tamra to emerge as a leader and will help to vault the Longhorns into 2005 - with her talents on and off the floor.