STILLWATER — Tiffany Bias admits she needed some water.
But she assures she was not tired.
She’s never tired.
So the Oklahoma State point guard got the inbounds pass from teammate Brittney Martin and bolted coast-to-coast in seven seconds, darting past and through defenders for the dramatic, game-winning layup against Texas Tech last week.
“She threw it in to me, and I was gone,” Bias recalled earlier this week. “I swear, everything was like a blur. I ran as fast as I could.”
And why not? She had already played the first 39 minutes and 53 seconds at full speed.
As always. Well, just about always.
Bias will be honored during OSU’s Senior Day festivities Saturday against Kansas State, capping off the home portion of a decorated Cowgirl basketball career that has included becoming the school’s all-time assists leader (749) and one of only four players in Big 12 history to accumulate 1,500 points, 700 assists and 250 steals in a career. She’s a sure bet to earn All-Big 12 honors and is an All-America candidate.
But perhaps Bias’ most miraculous quality is that she — quite literally — hardly ever comes off the floor for the Cowgirls, all while running at the dynamic pace required to play tenacious defense on the perimeter and thrive in the open court on offense. She’s played all 40 minutes in 11 of OSU’s 16 Big 12 games this season and in 36 games overall during her career. Over the final 16 games of last season, she sat on the bench for a grand total of four minutes.
It’s a trait Bias first acquired through her father’s grueling practices during summer ball. It’s shown at OSU not only in games, but in the fact that she has never lost a sprint in practice — even if she’s the only one dribbling a basketball. Coach Jim Littell calls Bias the hardest-working player he’s ever coached.
Bias, simply, doesn’t know any other way.
“It’s just kind of the norm for me now,” she said of playing all 40 minutes. “I don’t even think about it anymore.”
Many call Bias’ drive a relentless “motor.” Her father, Francis, calls it heart.
“I don’t look at it as a car,” he said. “I look at it as a person.”
Francis says Tiffany first displayed that heart when she was as young as 5. Tiffany said Dad instilled that toughness in her.
Francis Bias was the coach for one of Kansas’ top club teams, a squad that also featured former Cowgirl Lindsey Keller, former OU rebounding machine Joanna McFarland and former Boise State guard Julia Marshall. Tiffany Bias says they ran practice like a track team, with a heavy dose of full-court drills. One of Francis Bias’ mottos was “water makes you weak,” and he took a player tugging on their jersey during a game as a sign that he wasn’t running or working his team hard enough.
Now take into account that Tiffany Bias often wore a nine-pound weight vest during those practices.
“I used to pick it up and be like, ‘This thing’s kind of heavy,’” Francis Bias said with a chuckle. “I wouldn’t tell her that.”
Tiffany Bias was always small — she stands just 5-foot-6 now — and always playing against older competition. But she was also already fast, a quality Francis hoped to capitalize on even more.
When that vest would finally come off for practice or games, suddenly she was even lighter and quicker.
“You’d feel good,” she said. “It’s that confidence that builds inside you. “I think that just knowing in the back of my head, ‘This is for the betterment of me. It’s not for punishment’ … it was just that little extra edge for me to set myself apart from everybody.”
Tiffany Bias, naturally, already expected to play every minute of every game. At Central High School in the Wichita suburb of Andover, she was on her way to becoming the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year. She also became a track star, winning three state titles in the 400 meters and two in the 200 meters.
And when Tiffany Bias’ recruiting process began, her first question was simple: Where can I play early and often?
OSU was certainly the place for that. The coaching staff identified her as a sophomore in high school as a player who could take the place of Andrea Riley, by running the point and never coming off the floor.
“We knew it that early that she was just a unique athlete that can play as hard in the 40th minute as she did in the first minute,” Littell said, “and there’s not many people in around the country that can do that.”
A reporter immediately backpedaled when noting that Tiffany Bias’ speed can sometimes be a detriment.
“No, it’s true,” Tiffany Bias assures. “My biggest strength can be my biggest weakness a lot of times.”
Managing that speed — which is directly connected to her decision-making with the ball in her hands — has been one of Tiffany Bias’ biggest areas of growth during her career.
In high school, she admits she would always try to speed-dribble past the defenders, head back to the top of the key and then try to do it all over again. She had no veteran to learn from early in her OSU career, which means she often ran in circles while trying to run the Cowgirl offense.
Now she’s beginning to see a whole new world on the basketball floor.
“It just comes with maturity,” Tiffany Bias said. “Slowing down for a second, it doesn’t kill you … It doesn’t have to be 100 mph for everything to get done.
“It’s good that I’m finally coming into the point guard that I should be becoming and actually just seeing the game and letting it play out and not just always trying to create everything.”
Added Littell: “We’ve always discussed with her (that) faster is not always better ... but you don’t want to curb her too much. You don’t want to take away what she does best, and that’s play with good speed.”
And Tiffany Bias is still trying to get faster, even when strength and conditioning coach Nick Hoheisel looks at her like she’s crazy when she feels like she’s lost a step. She’ll work on the foot ladder, jump rope and do other drills that help her first step and overall explosiveness.
Perhaps her only vice that doesn’t link up with the ridiculous physical shape she’s in? She sneaks a bottle of Coke out of every home postgame press conference.
Tiffany Bias knows she can tell Littell if she ever really needs a breather. Not that she’ll ever actually take herself out of a game. Generally, foul trouble is the only thing that will force her off the floor.
And even then, the small breaks make her antsy.
“It can be like for two minutes,” Tiffany Bias said, “and I’m like, ‘Hey, Coach, um, come on. I’m ready.’ It feels like 15 minutes I’ve been sitting there.”
Because staying on the floor is her biggest way of leading by example.
“I put a lot on my shoulders, and I always have since my freshman year,” she said. “ … Knowing that, ‘Hey, if she’s not tired, we’re not tired. We’re gonna keep pushing and pushing. We’re not gonna give up.’
“I think it’s just one of those things where in the back of my mind, if my team sees what I’m doing, then I feel like they’ll follow, too.”
“I was not built to break.”
Those words could describe the mentality needed to get through the consistent dose of 40-minute games while playing a tough Big 12 schedule. But those words, which come from Whitney Houston’s song “I Didn’t Know my own Strength,” mean something much deeper to Tiffany Bias.
She sent a YouTube video of Houston’s performance of that song on Oprah to her dad just after Cowgirl coach Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna died in a plane crash early in her sophomore season.
“That sums it all up,” Francis Bias said. “That explains how she’s feeling, how she deals with things.”
Unprompted, Tiffany Bias points to that season — which ended in triumph when the Cowgirls won the WNIT championship on their home floor — as the most memorable moment of her career, because of how her team responded in the face of tragedy.
“We all dealt with it in our own ways,” she said. “But how we ended the season, we could have easily just rolled over and not done anything, but we finished strong. We came together and we did something that no one thought we could.
“I’ll always remember that, just knowing that even though there are hard times, you can get through it. You just pray about it and you get through.”
Here’s the warning sign that perhaps Tiffany Bias is a bit winded — her eyebrows go up. At least, that’s what Dad says.
Tiffany Bias can’t recall a specific game this season where she’s been gassed. Instead, the grind of the season has begun to take its toll by this time of year. But that’s what the cold tub and rehab are for, she said.
Over the next month, the Cowgirls will finish the Big 12 regular season, move onto the conference tournament in Oklahoma City and then make their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Then, the work still won’t stop. Whenever her OSU career is done, Tiffany Bias will maintain her normal workout schedule as she prepares for the WNBA Draft. Some believe she will be a first-round pick.
For now, though, Littell’s motto for Tiffany Bias is “rest tomorrow.”
That’s just fine with her. In her final chance to dash up and down the Gallagher-Iba Arena floor, she certainly expects to play all 40 minutes.
“It’s my senior year. It’s all I have left,” she said. “I just want to give it all I have. If it means going 40 minutes, I’ll go 40 minutes.”