When Carl Albert's Gioya Carter sat down with her dad and Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale following the Sooners' win over Texas Tech on Jan. 11, 2012, she didn't know what was coming.
“We would be honored to have you wear an Oklahoma jersey,” Coale said during the meeting.
The tears started flowing immediately.
First, from her dad, Harry Carter.
“That was a dream come true for her,” Harry said. “That's what she'd been working toward.”
Then Gioya welled up.
“Timeout,” Coale asked. “Is that a yes?”
There was never any doubt.
Carter decided when she was about 10 that she was going to be a Sooner.
She just needed to convince OU's coaches.
“We took her to the baseline bashes and camps when she was in fourth grade and that's when she said, ‘Daddy, I'm going to be a Sooner,” Harry said.
Harry didn't tell his daughter that's what was going to happen. But he didn't discourage her either.
“I told her what it would take for her to make that happen,” he said. “And that's what she started doing.”
Harry was her first coach.
“He was hard,” Carter said. “I think that's why I'm so hard on myself. He pushed me.
“During those practices, I thought I was never going to get out of there. He used to run us all the time. If I made a bad grade in school, I knew I was going to be running. It wasn't just court stuff.”
Harry grew up an OU fan, falling in love with the Sooners during the 1969 season.
“He could probably tell you every name of every football player that's ever come through OU,” Gioya said. “He's a fanatic.”
Gioya started off at Windsor Hills Baptist, going to the school through eighth grade.
But when Harry lost his job, the family needed Gioya to go to a public school.
The family considered Midwest City and others, but there was something about the way Tim Price coached that drew them toward Carl Albert.
“I knew she'd learn the game of basketball from him,” Harry said. “I tell you, it's been a blessing. He's taken Gioya a long way.”
That admiration is mutual.
Gioya had played summer ball with one of Price's players.
“When she joined the team that summer, we went to the OU team camp and right then you could tell she was going to be something special,” Price said. “I've been fortunate to coach some really good players but it's very, very rare that you find somebody this talented that is this humble and has been brought up the way she has.
“Her parents have done such an incredibly good job of raising her and keeping her in check as far as being humble and realizing that it's still a team game.”
What the family didn't know at the time was how much the decision to put her at Carl Albert would help her chances of winding up in Norman.
One of Price's best friends is longtime Oklahoma assistant Chad Thrailkill.
Almost immediately after Carter had started practicing with Carl Albert, before that OU camp even, Price told Thrailkill he might want to keep an eye on his young guard.
“By the time her sophomore year was finished, they were convinced she could play for them,” Price said. “They still had to make sure it worked with the spots they were going to have open and there were some doubts that could work sometimes, but they knew she had that talent.”
Stretches like the one she turned in last week in the Titans' own tournament final over Millwood are the reason Price is so thrilled to have Carter — and Coale is thrilled to be getting her.
Near the end of the third quarter, with Carl Albert down, Carter completely took over the game.
She scooped up rebound after rebound on the defensive end, turning them into points on the other end either with her own driving or through assists.
She also got into the Falcons' heads, drawing a technical foul after creating a turnover.
“I didn't have my feet and my legs were tired,” Carter said. “I told myself — I talk to myself a lot — ‘You can do this.' I kept pushing my teammates and we just pulled together.”
Carter helped propel Carl Albert to the come-from-behind win and won the tournament's Most Valuable Player honors.
Looking back on it a bit more than a year later, Coale still gets goose bumps thinking about that moment in her office.
“For every ‘No,' you get in this business and all the crazy stuff that we endure when recruiting kids ... when you get one like that and you forget all the bad stuff for awhile and you think, ‘I might could do this forever,' because that moment is worth its weight in gold.”
Noble at Class 5A No. 4 Carl Albert
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Carl Albert High School
Noteworthy: The Titans have won five games in a row, including three consecutive games last week to win the Titan Classic. ... Carl Albert beat Guthrie on Tuesday 50-49. ... Noble lost to Piedmont, 74-33. ... The game will be the final considered for seeding purposes for the teams. Playoff brackets for 6A and 5A will be released Feb. 7.