KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oklahoma women's basketball coach Sherri Coale said none of Whitney Hand's teammates saw the real Whitney Hand until this fall.
The Big 12 Freshman of the Year three years ago, Hand tore her ACL five games into her sophomore season. Two years later, she's finally healthy.
“It's night and day from last January until now,” Coale said. “She looks more like the Whitney Hand you saw as a true freshman.”
So Hand physically is where she was three years ago?
“She's even better,” Coale said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Day. “She's lighter. She's more agile. She's more fit. She moves better.”
After receiving a medical redshirt two years ago, Hand's return was delayed last August when doctors informed her she needed a second operation, this time microfracture surgery.
Hand returned in January after a 401-day layoff. She played in 22 games, helping lead the Sooners to the Sweet 16. But she constantly played in pain, skipping most practices just to suit up.
After averaging 12.6 points last season, Hand is grateful she no longer has to wear a bulky knee brace.
A potent perimeter threat who has drained 110 career 3-pointers, Hand once again can play without limitations.
“It was pretty supernatural I could even get on the court last year,” Hand said. “Running in transition, when I take off to sprint down the court it's like, ‘Ah, yes!' I feel great.”
In her fourth season, Hand benefitted from being a pseudo assistant coach during her lengthy layoff. She always has been a leader. But with All-America point guard Danielle Robinson now in the WNBA, Hand will take on an even larger role.
“It's been hard the past couple of years,” Hand said. “But in a way I feel blessed. It wasn't fun. But at the same time I've grown. I feel better mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally in every way.