NORMAN — Jasmine Hartman and Whitney Hand arrived as freshmen together at Oklahoma a little over four years ago.
Hand continues to be amazed at her classmate's growth and maturity over her career.
“She was an 18-year-old kid when she got here, and now she seems like a 40-year-old woman,” Hand said with a laugh. “She's wise beyond her years; a lot of that is because she's been through a lot while she's been here.”
Hartman had to learn to accept her role, which has fluctuated some but has mostly been as a reserve guard and defensive stopper for the Sooners, who host Bedlam rival Oklahoma State at 4 p.m. Sunday inside Lloyd Noble Center.
Accepting such a role is never easy for an eager, prideful freshman, but it had to be especially difficult for Hartman — a sophomore starter on Oklahoma's 2009-10 Final Four team.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” Hartman said. “I think God just has a plan for me, and being there for my teammates must be what I need to do.
“It's not just about me. It's about my teammates and making them better.”
Hartman's sophomore season was an important one in her career; aside from the 15 starts she earned, she scored a career-high 14 points in a March win over Oklahoma State.
That was also the season Hartman began to embrace the identity of a defensive ace.
Funny, because she admits not being very good on defense back at Bellaire High School in Houston.
“My coach always told me, ‘You've got a good stance, but you don't move very well,'” Hartman said. “I came into the role. My sophomore year, we had to take on different roles, and my role was defense.”
She started the first 12 games of her junior season, but resumed a reserve role once Hand returned from the first of her two severe knee injuries at OU; the second ended her career early this season.
In the preseason before the 2011-12 season — supposed to be her senior year — Hartman tore her ACL, redshirted and came back for one more season.
So far this year, Hartman has only averaged 15.8 minutes and 1.3 points per game.
“Her teammates depend on her,” said OU coach Sherri Coale. “They know when she comes in, she can take the lead perimeter player for the other team and lock them down.”
Hand said she thinks the team's younger players have learned a lot from Hartman's perpetually good attitude.
“How to practice, and how to be the same every day,” Hand said. “That's what I take from her. If she's in a bad mood, she keeps it to herself. If something bad happens, she just rolls with it.
“That's important in this sport because stuff happens all the time. You're dealing with something every single day. It goes so fast, you can't be affected by much. Nothing's a huge deal, and I hope the young kids are learning that.”