When Whitney Hand, Oklahoma's emotional and floor leader, went down with an injury in early December, not a lot changed for Morgan Hook on the court.
Hook was still the Sooners' point guard, directing the offense and defense and bringing the ball down the floor.
Hook has gone through ups and downs since Hand's injury, but she enters Saturday's NCAA Tournament opener against Central Michigan in Columbus, Ohio, better for it.
“At some times, those of us who really know her game well … we can see ways that it negatively affected her game and what she could do as she was trying to pick up those pieces,” Sooners coach Sherri Coale said. “But at the end of it all, it made her a much better player.”
It's hard to quantify the ways Hook's role has evolved.
“It changed in every way, in every facet,” Coale said. “Yes, she was the point guard before (but) that feels different when the heart and soul of your team wasn't on the floor anymore.
“It just does. You can say the job is the same but the job is not the same. It feels different.”
With Hand's injury, juniors Hook, Aaryn Ellenberg and Nicole Griffin in particular had to take up increased leadership roles.
But none felt the weight of those expectations more than Hook.
“It's definitely had its times where it's been a little bit more difficult than I thought it would be,” Hook said.
In those moments, usually during practice, Hook catches Hand's eyes.
“I feel a lot more comfortable with it now but there's still times when I look at her when I don't know what to said,” Hook said. “She'll just give me a little head nod and just tells me to go with whatever's on my mind.
“She's been really good for me just to learn from.”
Hand is still there every day in practice, to lend an ear or help motivate how she can, but having Hook's leadership on the floor is irreplaceable.
“There is only so much anyone who is not inside the 94 feet of those lines can do,” Coale said. “Morgan had to pick that up. It's been a stretch for her. For the most part, you watch her play and you appreciate what our team has done and you don't really think about that but that growth has been significant.”
Hook's numbers are comparable to last season — her scoring is down by half a point per game but her assist total is up by nearly two per game. The advantage of what she's had to go through this year figures to show up more next season, when Hook would've had to take a bigger leadership role with Hand's graduation anyway.
“I talked to Aaryn and Nicole about that,” Hook said. “This gives us a perspective of what next year's going to be like and how we all have to have that role a little bit. It can't be just one of us, it can't be just two of us, it has to be all of us.”