AUSTIN (KXAN) — Growing up in Mansfield, Texas, Anissa Gutierrez had a family that loved the University of Texas. Her grandmother wanted one of her grandkids to be a Longhorn. None before Gutierrez were, and for a while, it looked like Gutierrez wouldn’t be either.

After two years playing basketball at Division III Hendrix College in Arkansas, Gutierrez wanted to try to come to her home state and a school she’d thought about for a while. She was accepted to UT and soon after wanted to fulfill another dream.

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“I’d go out and get my run in, would leave and she’d be out there,” said Longhorns head coach Vic Schaefer about Gutierrez. “Then I’d come back, and she’d still be out there.”

Gutierrez would sit hours a day for a couple of weeks outside near where Texas practiced in hopes of meeting Schaefer. When she finally got his attention, she handed him a handwritten note expressing her interest in being on the team.

Not only did she earn a spot on the team as a walk-on, but after one season of hard work with the Longhorns in the 2021-2022 campaign, Texas officially put Gutierrez on scholarship before her senior season.

“I was like, ‘What?'” said Gutierrez about when she was surprised by the scholarship. “This can’t be happening. It’s something I never really expected. It would be awesome if it happened but I never would have imagined.”

After not scoring in her first season with the Longhorns, the former Hendrix Warrior got in late against Kansas State. Gutierrez notched a layup on a fastbreak with a nice move inside, prompting her teammates and the arena to erupt.

“The move was great,” said Longhorns sophomore guard Rori Harmon. “That’s a great move and that’s on a Big 12 team, Kansas State.”

“That arena, their response,” added Schaefer. “The response on our sideline. That tells you right there what people think of her.”

For Gutierrez to achieve all of this has not been easy. Her teammates and coaches are quick to point out how she works as hard as anyone despite little playing time. That effort has made it all worth it.

“I wasn’t expecting really anything else in return, just to be able to practice and be around the team at the smallest moment,” Gutierrez said. “I really wasn’t expecting to get gear or travel or really a locker or nothing like that. All that came a little later but I think I had to earn every second of it.”