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The end of a season always leaves some what-ifs, but Texas guard Shaylee Gonzales didn't want to be left wondering. The Longhorns were not able to reach their potential last season, so she decided her WNBA dreams could wait another year.

"After the season, I went home in May and was talking to my family about it and what would be the best decision for me," Gonzales, now a graduate student, told CBS Sports. "I felt like we could do more, we could do better. We didn't end how we wanted to end."

Throughout the season, Texas coach Vic Schaefer struggled to maintain a regular rotation with players such as Aaliyah Moore, Taylor Jones and star guard Rori Harmon dealing with injuries. Nevertheless, the Longhorns still managed to win the Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

The 2022-23 Longhorns were looking to reach their third consecutive Elite Eight and got home court advantage early in the NCAA tournament. However, they ended their season with their worst home loss of the year, a 73-51 drubbing by the hands of Louisville in the second round. 

That was Gonzales' first season with the Longhorns after transferring from BYU, and it was a productive one as she led the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Gonzales says she thinks the team did well even though half the roster was new with four transfers and four freshmen.

"I feel like we did a really great job coming together, being patient with each other, working together as a team," Gonzales said. "Obviously now we are a more veteran team and we know what to expect from coach. I feel like that's what's going to make us so good. We have a year under our belt. We are closer on and off the court."

Gonzales' expectations for this team are echoed by others outside the program as Texas is the preseason No. 1 in the Big 12, the program's first such ranking since the 2014-15 season. The team will be starting the 2023-24 campaign No. 13 in the AP Top 25 poll.

Harmon's return is a big part of the hype, as she averaged 11.2 points per game last season while leading her team in assists and steals. Entering 2023-24, she was named the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year and a Preseason All-Big 12 selection along with DeYona Gaston. Gonzales was hardly surprised because she knows what her teammates do behind the scenes.

"Rori is just the hardest worker," Gonzales said. "She is always spending extra time in the gym, taking every single rep, every single drill 100%. 

"DeYona has gotten so much better in the post. She is killing it during every single practice. She has a big post present and is super aggressive and strong."

Meanwhile, Madison Booker was named the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, while Gonzales and Moore earned Presason All-Big 12 honorable mentions.

Moore had her 2022-23 campaign cut short due to an ACL injury, but the junior forward is working to bounce back this season. In seven of the nine games Moore did play, she was a double-digit scorer, and she was a dominant post presence during her freshman year when Texas made it to the Elite Eight. Moore and Gaston were recently selected to the Katrina McClain Award watch list, which recognizes the top power forwards in the nation.

As for Gonzales herself, her teammates jokingly call her "grandma," but the 23-year-old is happy to be a veteran on the team and worked hard over the summer to improve her game.

"I feel like being a sixth-year and this being my second year at Texas, people are going to scout me out, they are going to know my game so I have to do other things they are not used to seeing," Gonzales said. "I'm mostly a catch-and-shoot shooter, so I've been working on being able to come off the dribble and shoot it."

Gonzales said she also worked on her press defense and 3-point shooting. But some of the most important skills are not physical. This was her second year with trainer Tremaine Dalton, who works with professional players in the U.S. and internationally. For Dalton, Gonzales' biggest strength as a veteran has to be her mentality. 

"She's already an all-around player. I don't think she realized how good she actually was," Dalton said. "When we first started training she didn't feel like she was a pro. She's gotta tap into that killer instinct. It's up to her. This is the year."

Gonzales has gained more confidence through the years and will chase her WNBA dream at the end of the season, but for now she is all in with Texas. 

The Longhorns will begin their season by hosting Southern University on Nov. 8. One of their biggest non-conference matchups will be against UConn on Dec. 3. Last season didn't end how Texas wanted, but the team is aiming to get back to the Elite Eight -- and hopefully even further than that.

"Some of us are in the gym an hour before practice every single day. Our work is going to show, it's going to prove that," Gonzales said. "We know what we have and we know what we can give. That's why I stayed. I want to go further in the tournament, I want to go to the Final Four and [the] national championship. That's something i've always dreamed of."