TULSA — Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale visited with reporters Monday evening before her OU Caravan appearance.
Here’s a few highlights from her interview session:
* Coale again praised last season’s team, which overcame lots of potentially devastating injuries to reach the Sweet 16.
“You know, you’re not supposed to have favorite teams, or favorite players, or favorite children,” Coale said. “I’ve gotta tell you, I loved this team. I loved everything about this team. I loved their heartbeat, I loved their competitive drive. I loved how they believed in one another and played for each other.
“It was an honor to be their coach. I felt that every single game that we played. And now that the season is in the books, it’s one of the most rewarding I’ve been a part of.”
* Coale joked about her team’s healthy backcourt depth.
“Contrary to popular opinion, we are not trying to compete in the 6-foot and under league,” Coale said. “They’re really good players. I think there will be a lot of competition for playing time, I really do.”
The Sooners return starting guards Morgan Hook, Aaryn Ellenberg and Sharane Campbell, plus young reserves Maddie Manning and Nicole Kornet.
Also, three of the Sooners’ four incoming recruits are guards. Coale added guards Gioya Carter, T’ona Edwards and Derica Wyatt to the fold, along with forward Shaya Kellogg.
Carter, from Carl Albert, was The Oklahoman’s 2013 Super 5 Player of the Year, and Edwards was named Little All-City Player of the Year after leading Northeast to the Class 2A state title.
* Edwards was a late addition to Coale’s recruiting class. She committed in March.
“I watched (Edwards) several times in her high-school season,” Coale said. “She’s the kind of kid that grows on you. You watch her, and you watch her, and you watch her, and the kid just finds a way to win games. She finds a way to make plays.”
The 5-5 guard averaged 16.7 points and 7.0 rebounds as a senior at Northeast.
Hook returns as the Sooners’ starting point guard, but backup Jasmine Hartman was lost to graduation. Manning was a true freshman last year, but tore her ACL early in the season.
“(Edwards) gives us some much-needed depth at the point position,” Coale said. “Last year, you had Jasmine to run scout team against Morgan, and Maddie gets hurt. What if you want to play Jasmine and Morgan together? What do you do? And you’re looking at that same scenario with Jasmine graduated, so we needed that third point guard in the rotation.”
* Coale praised the state of Oklahoma’s four Division I women’s basketball programs, all of which qualified for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Oklahoma advanced to the Sweet 16, where it lost 74-59 to Tennessee. Oklahoma State reached the second round, losing 68-59 after a valliant effort against No. 2-seeded Duke on its home floor.
No. 16-seed Tulsa lost its first-round game 72-56 at top-seeded Stanford.
Like OU, Oral Roberts was eliminated from the tournament by Tennessee. The No. 15-seeded Golden Eagles lost 83-62 to the Volunteers in the first round.
“All four schools made it and played well,” Coale said. “Had a great showing, and I think across the board, the thing that people across the country will say about those four teams is we all fought like crazy. Really competitive, and full of rosters with Oklahoma kids, all of us.
“I think it really spoke volumes, maybe more about the state of high-school basketball in the state of Oklahoma, than anything, because we have so many kids from here.”
* Asked what Whitney Hand is going to do now, Coale said, “Anything she wants.”
Hand started 103 games at Oklahoma, recording 1,211 points, 555 rebounds and 296 assists. A second ACL tear in early December ended her college career and, seemingly, her playing career altogther.
But the San Antonio Silver Stars selected Hand in the third round of last month’s WNBA Draft, leaving open the possibility that she could return to the floor in 2014.
“I don’t think she knows at this time,” Coale said of that opportunity. “A lot of it will depend on the knee and how it heals.”
Hand’s husband, former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, is beginning his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Should Hand choose to pursue a WNBA career in San Antonio, Coale said she didn’t think the conflicting professional sports careers would be an issue.
“The great thing about the WNBA season is it’s so short,” Coale said. “It falls in a perfect complement to his season and what he does. I think there’s probably a way to do both, and if there were ever two people who could do it, it would probably be them.”