By David Cohen
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
If the Big 12 ever had a Fountain of Youth for women's basketball, a prime location would have to be at TCU's Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. The Horned Frogs are the 24th least-experienced of 345 Division I teams and play in the league with the toughest RPI in the nation, but they have the right person to usher the program into a new era.
Delisa Gross has been everything a coach could ask for. The energetic and versatile 6'1" senior forward has made her mark on the program by starting games, coming off the bench, hitting three-pointers at the right time, crashing the boards and even blocking a shot or two. Her ever-present smile in casual moments and constant communication on the court have made her the valued asset she is for the Horned Frogs.
"My roles have always changed depending on the year and the personnel," Gross, one of only two senior Horned Frogs, said. "This year we had a lot of three-point shooters, like [freshmen] Zahna [Medley] and Kamy [Cole], so with all those shooters outside my role has been rebounding down low and energy plays and hustle plays. I embrace my role and do whatever I can to help the team."
Gross is also the most tenured Horned Frog of anyone on the roster. TCU's only other senior, guard Whitney Williams, is in her fifth year but played her first two years at Big 12 rival Iowa State. The average age on the team is 19, and three girls are 18 or younger, which includes freshman Veja Hamilton who entered the fall as a 16-year-old.
Gross has become the voice of reason for the impressionable freshman class, providing them with as many details about her past TCU experiences as she can.
"I think the first thing that I did [to build relationships] was this summer was I told them the very first day 'I'm a very comfortable person so don't be afraid to ask me anything,'" she said. "I know with freshmen you have moments where you're going to mess up and you're kind of scared and you don't know what to do and it can deal with anything, not just basketball. It can be anything off the court like having trouble with class or other things."
Her introduction to the team must have had some sort of impact, as Gross has been sought after multiple times for help throughout the season.
"Throughout the season we have had various conversations about different games I've been in, like my freshman year when we upset [fifth-ranked Texas] A&M," Gross said. "I was just telling them about that not long ago.
"The person who asks me the most is Zahna who will always ask 'what was it like the last time you played Georgia or OU?' And I will tell her about the atmosphere and I'm honest with her and I will tell her what kind of pressure to expect and the type of crowd. Zahna has no idea since she was just in high school."
While Gross is long removed from prom and Friday night football games, she has not forgotten some of her epic Waco Midway High School games against some of her current Big 12 foes and how significant those Texas high school match-ups are in the long run.
"One that sticks out in my head the most would be when we played Dallas Lincoln who had Kimetria Hayden, who now plays at Baylor. You could call it a revenge game because we lost the first time and played them again to get to state and we won state that year. I scored 32 points on nine three's and we just went off that game. It's funny now playing her when we play Baylor. For the Texas games, I was expecting to play against my former teammate Cokie Reed but she is done playing after so many injuries."
Gross feels she came into college as a disciplined person, but acknowledges longtime head coach Jeff Mittie for helping her become the leader she is today.
"Coach Mittie emphasizes that all the little things matter and you carry that off the court also, such as in the classroom and other places," she says. "I don't slack off because I know the little things matter."
Mittie also has his share of praise for Gross.
"Her efforts are always consistent," he said. "You know what you're going to get with [Delisa]. Her roles have been a little different this year, but she always gives a great effort."
The many minutes Gross has accumulated throughout her career calling out offensive and defensive plays and directing teammates will undoubtedly help her out in the long run when she pursues a career as a speech pathologist. She also lightheartedly hopes her purple blood will not limit her graduate school opportunities in Big 12 country.
"I'm not sure if I want to go back to my hometown and go to Baylor because they might not accept me there. I'm going to apply to Baylor, TCU, and UT and I have a fifth year coming up to finish up my clinical hours for my major, then go from there."
Gross will focus on helping other people with stutters, voice issues, disorders, speech disorders, and those who had a traumatic brain injury and have forgotten how to communicate. The energetic and forward who is all smiles and all business has reason to believe she will be successful when it comes to helping others.
"I'm able to empathize with people and understand their problem but at the same time not take pity because of their disorder," she says. "I'm able to understand that this person needs help and they need to be taught, but I'm not going to sit back and say 'oh you poor thing.'"