NORMAN — Oklahoma guard Whitney Hand played in a Final Four as a freshman. But her most on-edge moment as a Sooner came from the stands in Cowboys Stadium watching boyfriend Landry Jones suddenly get sent onto the football field at quarterback. "I’ve never been that nervous playing,” she recalled. "BYU is probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life.” Such is life for OU’s version of Brangelina. Since two of the Sooners’ biggest athletic stars decided to start dating on New Year’s Day of this year, they have gradually become the university’s own first couple. "It’s funny, we joke about it all the time because it’s been blown up into such a huge deal,” Hand said. "But really, we don’t notice it. It’s not like the paparazzi is following us.” Not yet, at least. With Sam Bradford scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery today and later enter the NFL Draft, Jones is now OU’s permanent starting quarterback. A job as important in Oklahoma as governing the state. "It’s been stressful for me,” said Hand, who maintains that, while she didn’t like it, she had nothing to do with Jones shaving his previously famous mustache following a loss at Miami. "I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for him.” So far, Jones has performed admirably replacing a Heisman Trophy winner. Already he has broken Bradford’s school record for touchdown passes in a game, tossing six earlier this season against Tulsa. "He’s a superstar now,” Hand said, "and he’s going to have to live up to that.” Jones, however, wisely professes his counterpart remains the more popular of the two. "She’s the bigger deal,” he said. And Jones may have a case. Few players in OU women’s basketball history have captivated fans like Hand, only entering her sophomore season. Recognized for letting out that trademark big smile with every 3-pointer she sank, Hand eventually shot her way to Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors, despite missing several games with a fractured finger. Now that Courtney and Ashley Paris have graduated, Hand figures to be the focal point of the Sooner attack, along with fellow backcourt mate Danielle Robinson. Yet with Hand and Jones both on the brink of stardom, dating has become increasingly less private, especially around campus. "We’ve been best friends for awhile, even before we started dating, so it’s fun to see each other succeed and fun to get the attention,” Hand said. "But we’ve taken steps to stay out of the public eye.” Yet Jones will be easy to find during the women’s basketball season. His parents, who now live in Norman, have already purchased season tickets behind the bench. "We’ve helped each other grow,” Hand said. "It’s nice to have a best friend who can really help you athletically, spiritually, emotionally. We’ve had a lot of fun.” Text "SOONER" to 65360 for your chance to win a football signed by Billy Sims. OU news text updates from NewsOK sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.
Kansas State at OU→When: 6 p.m. Saturday →Where: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman →TV: FSN (Cox 37) →Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7