The OSU women added eight players in the offseason, giving the Cowgirls depth that was severely lacking down the stretch last season.
True freshmen Roshunda Johnson (guard), Katelyn Loecker (forward) and Lakota Beatty (guard), as well as junior college transfer Marisha Wallace (center), are all expected to contribute right away. Same with Brittany Atkins, a redshirt freshman guard who spent last season recovering from knee surgery.
Those extra players also give coach Jim Littell more flexibility with his lineups.
The Cowgirls can go big with Wallace or LaShawn Jones at center, which would slide Kendra Suttles to power forward. Or they can go small by playing point guard Tiffany Bias and her backup, Johnson, at the same time.
“I just believe that makes you more difficult to prepare for,” Littell said, “and we may be able to press a little bit more and play on the full court a little bit more. I think it does give us versatility with the people that we've brought in.”
NEW NAME: FORTE, TIMES 3
Sophomore guard Phil Forte will again wear No. 13 for the Cowboys, although his jersey will feature a new flair.
The name on the back: Forte III.
“Me and (teammate) Ford Stuen were talking over the summer,” Forte said. “I'm the third in the family, so he finally said, ‘Hey, why don't you put the three roman numerals on your back?' I was like, ‘That's not a bad idea.'
“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing.”
REPLACING TONI YOUNG A COLLECTIVE EFFORT
The Cowgirls return four starters from last season's squad. Still, they must replace Toni Young, their leading scorer and rebounder who became a top-10 WNBA Draft pick.
How can OSU account for Young's 16 points and 10.1 rebounds per game this season?
“We don't have anybody in the gym that's going to match her athleticism or do the things that she's done,” Littell said. “What we do have to have is good solid play out of LaShawn Jones and Marisha Wallace. They've got to come in and do what they're capable of doing.
“And then we've got to find a different way to make up for her points and rebounds. Not one person is gonna do it. We've got to do it collectively.”
BY JOHN HELSLEY AND GINA MIZELL