Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale wants her players to grow and develop as athletes during their college years, but also to mature in other ways.
“One of Coach Coale's mission is to make us more well-rounded individuals, women and citizens of society,” said senior guard Whitney Hand.
That's why between basketball tasks in Honolulu — where OU opens the Rainbow Wahine Showdown at 6 p.m. Friday against Arkansas — Coale took her team to Pearl Harbor, the site of the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise military strike that killed over 2,400 Americans and led directly to the United States' entry into World War II.
“What an incredible opportunity to understand history in a very real way, and appreciate the luxuries we enjoy and the price that was paid so we can enjoy them,” Coale said.
Coale's teams have played in Honolulu before, and she always makes sure to take time to visit nearby Pearl Harbor. The last time an OU women's basketball team visited was 2006.
“Pearl Harbor's one of those things ... you've seen the movie; you've heard the story,” Hand said. “But until you really experience it, you can't understand the gravity of it.
“We're standing on top of the (USS Arizona), and hundreds and hundreds of men are still buried underneath it. It's kind of staggering.”
The trip to Hawaii is first and foremost, though, about basketball.
Coale said she likes her players being in unfamiliar environments because it makes players grow up.
“I think one of our goals was always to put our team in as many uncomfortable situations as possible; that might sound like an oxymoron since we're in Hawaii,” Coale said with a laugh.
“But we challenge them. ... Adjusting to the time zones, different times of day, all kinds of things that push them a little bit out of their comfort zone is where you learn and really grow.”
The No. 13 Sooners are 2-1 through their early games, with the loss coming at home last week to UCLA.
Hand said the team “has a higher ceiling than probably any team I've played with,” which are strong words considering the Sooners' two Final Four appearances since she arrived in Norman.
After Friday's game, the Sooners play Saturday against Oregon before wrapping up their three-game trip Sunday against tournament host Hawaii.
“Rarely in the season do you play three games in a row until it matters,” Hand said. “Getting this experience of playing back-to-back-to-back, you don't usually get that until March. And in March, when you lose you're done.”
NO. 13 OKLAHOMA VS. ARKANSAS
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu
Radio: KEBC-AM 1560, KREF-AM 1400
Live webcast: SoonerSports.tv