#18 Oklahoma Women's Basketball Preview

Oklahoma Sooners

Overall rank: #18
Conference rank: Big 12 #3
Oklahoma Women's College Basketball Logo
Oklahoma Team Page

The Oklahoma women’s basketball program couldn’t keep the momentum going from the 2009-10 season, which turned out to be one of the most successful in school history. The Sooners still had another solid season, however, with a trip to the Sweet 16 that ended with a loss to Notre Dame in the regional semifinals. Oklahoma hasn’t missed an NCAA tournament since 1999, but can it keep the quality level going without one of the finest players to grace a basketball court in recent memory?

2010-11: 23-12, 10-6
2010-11 Postseason: NCAA (lost to Notre Dame, 78-53, in regional semifinals)
Coach: Sherri Coale, 336-155 overall

Who’s Out:
Three seniors played their last game in Norman last spring. Guard Danielle Robinson is one of four players in women’s college basketball history with 2,000 points, 700 assists and 300 steals. The others are Courtney Vandersloot, Dawn Staley and Nancy Lieberman. Impressive history, right? Robinson finished with 18.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Fellow guard Lauren Willis averaged 2.6 points a game and was effectively used in mop-up duty. Forward Carlee Roethlisberger (the younger sister of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) averaged 6.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and was a reliable in terms of minutes played. Roethlisberger started all 35 games. Kodi Morrison, who was a sophomore guard, left the team but stayed in state; she transferred to East Central University, a Division II school, which enabled her to play immediately.

Who’s In:
Coale beefed up her bench with four freshmen, filling the holes with two guards and two forwards. DaShawn Harden, a 5-9 guard, played on a state-championship St. Thomas Aquinas squad and was rated the no. 6 point guard in the country in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 rankings. Sharane Campbell, a 5-10 guard, was the 17th-ranked small forward in the nation in that same ESPNU poll, and The Oklahoman named Campbell as the state’s player of the year. Katherine Zander, a 6-4 forward, averaged a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds at Orange Park High School in Florida, and 6-3 forward Kaylon Williams played in two straight state-title games at Midwest City High School in Oklahoma, winning in 2010 and falling short last winter.

Who to Watch:
With Robinson’s graduation, the focus shifts to Aaryn Ellenberg and Whitney Hand. Ellenberg, a 5-7 sophomore guard, averaged 16.2 points per game and was the team’s hottest 3-point shooter (94-for-237, 39.7 percent) a year ago. Hand, a 6-1 guard who is a redshirt junior, came in at 12.6 points and 5.7 rebounds a year ago.

Final Projection:
A player like Robinson comes along maybe once a decade or a little longer, and her loss will be felt in many ways by the Oklahoma community. Ellenberg and Hand will pick things up a bit with their scoring, but after that the points drop off fairly fast. Coale may need the hot shooting hand of one or two of her freshmen to guarantee things stay strong this season.

The Sooners’ pre-conference schedule has some creampuff opponents, but Oklahoma does play Ohio State, Syracuse and Xavier before the Big 12 gets underway. Baylor, Texas A&M and other teams will give Oklahoma fits once the league slate gets started, and how well Oklahoma fares in conference play will determine how far the Sooners go in March.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Aaryn Ellenberg, Guard, Sophomore, strong 3-point shooting
Whitney Hand, Guard, Junior, 12.6 points per game
Nicole Griffin, Center, Sophomore, started final 12 games
Katherine Zander, Forward, Freshman, DNP last season
Joanna McFarland, Forward/Center, Junior, two double-doubles during NCAA tournament

Madness 2012 WNBA Draft Rankings:
#14 Whitney Hand

Madness 2011 Women's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#38 Dashawn Harden
#50 Kaylon Williams
#82 Sharane Campbell