The end could come tonight, or it could occur next month.
Regardless of how far the Georgia Lady Bulldogs advance in the NCAA basketball tournament, senior point guard Ashley Houts will be competing in her final college showcase. It's not something the former Dade County standout has contemplated entering Georgia's first-round matchup against Tulane in Tempe, Ariz., and the same goes for Lady Bulldogs coach Andy Landers.
"I don't even think about losing her or that this is her last tournament," Landers said. "I've enjoyed every minute that we've had her, and I still do. I suppose when she takes her last final, at that point I may have to go to some sort of halfway house or something. I've said it before, I'm addicted to her."
Houts will not leave Georgia as the greatest player in program history, but it would be hard to find someone more dependable and durable. She led the Southeastern Conference in minutes played her sophomore and junior seasons, playing all but 67.6 seconds in 14 league games as a junior.
Her minutes per game have dipped to "only" 34.8 this season due to a sprained left ankle she suffered during the Jan. 21 upset of Tennessee and tweaked the next week at Mississippi State. She played eight minutes in a Jan. 31 loss at Auburn, which broke her previous career low by 10 minutes, but is back to normal after a 40-minute game in the SEC quarterfinals.
"I've had plenty of rest over this break, and we've tried to do some things in rehab," Houts said. "I'm feeling pretty good right now."
Houts leads the Bulldogs with 12.4 points a game and has compiled 117 assists and 64 steals. Though it seems as if she has played in the SEC for forever -- as it did with productive football players such as Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow -- Houts believes her 130 games with the Lady Bulldogs have flown.
She has started 127 of those games.
"In all reality, I don't think it's really set in yet because we still are guaranteed one more game," Houts said, "so I don't want to think about the end. We're trying to focus on the task at hand right now. We've had some growing pains, but we've got this second chance to start over and show that we can be who we were at the beginning of the season.
"I still think our best basketball has yet to be played."
Two victories by the Lady Bulldogs would get them into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007. Georgia has not reached the Elite Eight since 2004 or the Final Four since 1999, so there is a lot left for Houts to experience in the college game.
After the NCAA tournament, Houts will turn her focus to graduating in May in Recreation and Leisure Studies and giving her best shot at the WNBA.
"We hope she has a big run in it and that Georgia gets to play several games," said her mother, Joni Houts. "It's been a great ride for her and for us, too, because the University of Georgia has taken care of her. I think she's left some sort of mark there at the university that people will remember and that she can always reflect on. It's been a great two-way ride."
Said Landers: "I just want to see her hustle and bust it when we play Tulane."