March 4, 2016
By Cassie Logan | @c4ssielogan
ARLINGTON, Texas - In the final season of their collegiate careers, student-athletes often look to Senior Night as a time of reflection and a signal of closure.
For UT Arlington's Courtney Austin and Kennedy Eubanks, Saturday's Senior Night against Troy will be a time to give thanks to the program and coaches who have taught them not just about basketball, but about themselves and where they go from here.
"I've grown into a man here," Austin said. "I came here my sophomore year and I was 19. Now I'm 22. Coach [Scott Cross] taught me the little things I thought were petty. Things like being on time, handling certain situations certain ways and taking care of my responsibilities."
The Mavericks (21-9) are 12-7 in the Sun Belt and would lock down the third seed in next week's conference tournament by beating Troy. UTA owns a victory over the Trojans earlier this season on the road.
The two seniors, both transfers, both found a home in Arlington. Austin played at Paris Junior College in 2012-13 before making the switch. Eubanks spent seasons at Tennessee State and Jacksonville College before settling at UTA last year.
Though their stay in Arlington hasn't been the typical four years, what these players have learned from the program speaks to its depth and character.
Eubanks hasn't found the right words to describe his final game at College Park Center, but what he is sure about is how Cross and UT Arlington associate head coach Greg Young have made him feel.
Cross is one of those coaches who cares for a player's personal development just as much as what they can offer on the court. Eubanks realized Cross trained the laziness out of him, a trait that'll be useful to him when basketball is no longer his full-time job.
"Coach Cross and Coach Young are the type of coaches that I needed," Eubanks said.
Eubanks was forced to sit in 2014-15 due to NCAA transfer rules, but he came off the bench ready to make an impact. The Pendleton, South Carolina native has played in 29 games this season, averaging 15.5 minutes and 5.7 points a game, with 10 blocks and 10 steals.
In the first game without star Kevin Hervey, Eubanks made his first career start and seized the opportunity with a double-double on a career-high 23 points and 11 rebounds.
"Kennedy has had a couple of games where he's really carried us," Cross said. "He's the guy that's capable of knocking down open jumps for us. He's the guy that brings energy, can defend, and can grab offensive and defensive rebounds."
Austin is nearing the end of his third season in a Maverick uniform after playing in nearly 40 games. The Dallas product already knows he'll have more than a few thoughts on his mind Saturday night, but wants to leave it all on the court he's loved for years one last time.
When Cross thinks of Austin, he thinks of a player that embodies everything a Maverick should be. He's a tough guy - one of Cross' mantras - and his work ethic is how he leads by example.
"He hasn't played a lot of minutes for us, but his role is as valuable as anybody else on this team," Cross said. "He makes every single one of our guys better. We talk about being loud and aggressive defensively, and he is loud every single day."
And what Eubanks and Austin will miss most about the Mavericks comes down to one word - attitude. Both players said their team is fun and comical, with inside jokes and group messages meant for their eyes only. Kind of like a brotherhood.
"Off the court, the team is probably the funniest team I've ever been around," Austin said. "If we had a reality TV show, it'd probably be the most watched show about a basketball team ever. I'm going to really miss it."
Single game tickets are available at UTATickets.com or by contacting the College Park Center Box Office at (817) 272-9595.
MBB: Mavericks drop league game at Louisiana
MBB: UTA travels to league-leading Ragin' Cajuns
MBB: Mavs fall to Warhawks despite Neal's offensive show
MBB: Mavericks looking to reverse road fortune in Louisiana
MBB: Hervey's Career Night Leads Mavs Past Cats
MBB: Castro has the heart of a Maverick