OKLAHOMA CITY —
Hand knew her place with the program was bigger than the game.
“It’s about so much more than basketball for coach Coale, for me, for this program, and my job didn’t end once I got hurt,” she said. “When people ask me that, I’m like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know I had an option … This is what I’m here to do, to lead these girls whether I’m on the court or off.”
Hand and Cloman are only two of four Sooners to lose their season to injury.
Kaylon Williams, who started 16 games her freshman season, ruptured her right Achilles tendon before her sophomore campaign could begin. Freshman Maddie Manning, who moved into the starting lineup four games into the season, lost it after tearing the ACL in her right knee the last week of November.
Every shot was a hard blow to the program, but Hand and Cloman’s refusal to back away from their leadership roles has been a big part of the Sooners’ resiliency.
Their sacrifice continues to blow Coale away.
“You know, it’s one thing to not (be able to play) and to hurt because it’s over, but then to still have to be right where you used to be, every day? That’s big time,” she said. “Then, ironically, I don’t think we’re here talking today if they don’t choose to do that.”
Almost by accident, Hand and Cloman gave the team another lift beginning the last home game of the season, March 2, against Kansas.
“Whitney and Lyndsey came to me on senior night and asked if they could wear their jersey because it wouldn’t feel right not being in uniform their last night at Lloyd Noble Center,” Coale said. “I said, ‘Sure, why don’t you do that.’