NORMAN — Oklahoma volleyball junior Eden Williams was among the thousands of horrified basketball fans in the Lloyd Noble Center stands Dec. 6, watching popular senior Whitney Hand writhe in pain from her career-ending ACL tear.
“I teared up,” Williams said. “It was just an awful sight; she's such an amazing person.”
Never once, though, did Williams or volleyball teammate Tara Dunn think they'd become part of the solution for the women's basketball team, which has suffered four season- or career-ending injuries since the preseason.
But that's exactly what happened; Williams and Dunn were added this week to coach Sherri Coale's roster, giving the Sooners 10 healthy bodies entering Saturday's home game against Cal State Northridge, Oklahoma's final opponent before Big 12 Conference play begins.
Neither Dunn nor Williams enter this new endeavor expecting to play much, if at all. For them, joining the basketball team is about having fun, experiencing something new and — most importantly — helping their friends and fellow OU student-athletes.
“My freshman year ... I was in the dorms with (Kaylon Williams) and Sharane (Campbell), so I knew them,” Dunn said. “The athletic community is really small here at Oklahoma, so you pretty much know all the athletes.
“We've been told from the beginning that we're most likely just going to be scout team, which I'm perfectly fine with ... I definitely don't expect anything.”
Dunn (6-foot-2) and Williams (5-foot-3) each played basketball from a young age through their senior years of high school, but decided early in their prep careers that volleyball was their future.
“I definitely never thought I'd be playing at this level,” Dunn laughed.
But after Hand's injury, Coale contacted Oklahoma volleyball coach Santiago Restrepo to see if there were any players on his team with much basketball experience.
The volleyball team's season ended in early December, so this is supposed to be its time to relax and enjoy a temporary reprieve from the daily grind of a student-athlete.
Plus, Dunn and Williams will have to find time to participate in volleyball offseason workouts while also practicing and traveling with the basketball team.
“They could have a month off, and spend time with their family, and go do fun stuff,” Coale said. “In the offseason, you get to breathe, you get to be a ‘normal student' for a little while. All that goes away for them.
“They love this university. They love being an athlete here. I think it speaks volumes about how connected our programs are. When you play for Oklahoma, you play for Oklahoma.”
Williams will be a senior next volleyball season; she said one of the most important things she'll take from this experience is simply spending time around Hand.
“I look up to her,” Williams said. “I'm excited that I'll get to know her a little better, and hopefully learn some of her leadership skills that I can take back to volleyball next year.”