STILLWATER — Not long ago, LaNesha Middleton was putting up shot after shot inside Gallagher-Iba Arena with her father.
But the stakes will be a bit different Thursday night. Middleton, the daughter of Oklahoma State men's basketball assistant coach Steve Middleton, will suit up for Stephen F. Austin and step onto that court for the first time as a college player in the Ladyjacks' nonconference clash against the No. 16 Cowgirls.
“It's like I'm coming home,” LaNesha said in a phone interview while on the 7-hour bus ride to Stillwater from Nacogdoches, Texas. “I can't wait.”
LaNesha and her family moved to Stillwater just before she started high school, when Steve came to OSU with Travis Ford just after he was hired as the Cowboys' head coach.
During her four years at Stillwater High, LaNesha attended countless Cowboy games and got to know players and coaches on a personal level. And on the high school court, she was a standout, averaging a double-double her senior season and scoring more than 1,000 points in her Pioneer career.
That was more than enough for SFA to take notice. The school started recruiting her as a sophomore, and during the process, she could always rely on Dad for advice.
Recruiting is, after all, something Steve is plenty familiar with. He reminded her to choose a school where she not only felt comfortable with the players and coaches, but where she could grow academically. LaNesha was the valedictorian of her graduating class.
“He just really wanted to make sure I was sure of my decision,” she said. “But the decision, he left it up to me.”