A year ago, Morgan Toben thought her college basketball career was over. Well, except for the daily pickup games she'd play at the Colvin Recreation Center on Oklahoma State's campus.
But Saturday night, Toben will be suited up — and will almost certainly get key minutes — when the No. 12 Cowgirls face Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
“It's been a nice surprise,” Toben said with a smile.
How'd that happen? It's the result of a journey from Owasso to New Mexico to Stillwater and, finally, to Cowgirl coach Jim Littell's office.
After a standout basketball and volleyball high school career at Owasso, Toben signed with New Mexico. But after one season in Albuquerque, where she started three games and averaged four points and 2.3 rebounds per contest, Toben realized she was unhappy and decided to transfer to OSU.
That meant focusing on her biochemistry degree and giving up basketball, other than those casual games at the Colvin.
By the end of last spring, however, Toben really missed being a part of a team. And with the nudging of a pair of friends — former OSU graduate assistant Lacey Goldwire and current student manager Kaylyn Pulley — Toben set up a meeting with Littell to discuss the possibility of walking on.
Toben admits she didn't have much of a pitch. But by the end of the conversation, Littell had invited her to join the Cowgirls.
“If you want a walk-on, you want somebody that is a really good person, will be a good teammate and understands their role on the team,” Littell said. “After 20 minutes, I felt very comfortable with her.
“Then when she got out here and started playing I went, ‘Whoa, this kid's going to be able to help us as the season goes on.'”
So much so that in September, Littell called Toben into the bleachers after a practice and offered her a scholarship.
“I just remember being really excited about it,” Toben said of that moment. “Just knowing that I had worked really hard and proven myself at that point, that I could compete with these girls.”
With injuries and transfers currently leaving OSU with just nine healthy players, the Cowgirls have needed Toben. At a lean 6-foot-3, Toben mostly plays on the wing and can knock down the outside jumper. She averages 3.8 points in 10 minutes per game and is shooting 47 percent from the 3-point line.
Though what Toben brings most, Littell said, is basketball smarts.
“She the best player on the team as far as attention to detail,” he said. “That's what allows her to her to be successful. When you're talking, she's watching and listening to everything. When another player is corrected, she's taking it all in.
“Those types of players have always flourished with me.”
So far this season, Toben has hit four 3-pointers in a matchup against Texas Southern. She entered the game early against Baylor in Waco and admitted it's cool to say she played against Brittney Griner. In the Cowgirls' rout of Iowa State last Sunday, the OSU bench went bonkers when Toben drilled a shot from long distance.
“I think it's just because people didn't expect it out of me, which makes it even more cool,” Toben said. “When people doubt you, you just want to prove them wrong. I'm someone that just walked in from nowhere.”
Toben never expected all of this when she decided to try to take her game from the rec center to Gallagher-Iba Arena. But she's thankful for the experience.
“I was just happy to be a part of the team,” she said. “Everything's a blessing beyond that, just actually getting in and getting to contribute and be a part of the success.”