NORMAN — Whitney Hand hasn't played in an Oklahoma basketball game in more than a year, but the Sooners are still trying to replace her leadership.
“When things went crazy, everyone looked to Whit, and she would know what to say or know the button to push or the string to pull,” said coach Sherri Coale.
Oklahoma (6-3) is coming off a home loss to No. 2 Duke last weekend, and returns to action Sunday afternoon against Maryland Eastern Shore inside Lloyd Noble Center.
Coale spoke to The Oklahoman about her team's attitude, the tough nonconference schedule and replacing Hand, whose career prematurely ended with a torn ACL last December.
Q: You guys have played an awfully tough schedule out of conference. What have you learned about this team that you didn't already know?
A: I think the reason you play a schedule like that is to expose yourself, and one of the things we've found is that when everything's going right — which is the case for most people in the world — it's pretty easy to be confident and make plays and enjoy prosperity.
The kicker is, can you do that when things aren't going right? We've not shown an ability to have that kind of sustained confidence. We have fought like crazy when backed into a corner, and I love that. It would be terrifying to be in this position right now and not have that grit.
Is that a natural thing that any team has to deal with?
It depends on the complexion of the team as a whole. I think this team is still really searching for their identity. It's an absence of Whitney, who was such a big presence for so long. They're trying to figure out who that is that they look to. … They all still look to me, which is fine, except I'm not out there.
Was Whitney still able to fill that role when she was injured?
As much as she could. Even though the bench may be fantastic during a game, there are five guys on the floor who can affect it. But still, to have that peer who can snap you into action or know which button to push to get you more focused, they're missing that. Whit grew into a very astute leader in that regard, and I'm trying really hard this week to stay pulled back and let them figure out who that is.