NORMAN — It’s only summer and Oklahoma’s women’s basketball coach is only allowed to see her players on the court a couple of hours a week and the season’s still a long way away.
Still, despite such little access, Sherri Coale has seen enough to look forward to the season with a great deal of optimism.
Coale spent Tuesday night at the Sooner Caravan event in Oklahoma City and, in a very short session with the media, managed to let loose with some pretty interesting tidbits.
Tops among them was a report on Maddie Manning. A year ago, Manning, a guard in the mold of former Sooner great Stacey Dales, broke into the starting lineup as a true freshman.
After scoring a total of four points, dishing one assist and corralling two steals over her first three games off the bench, she scored 33 points, dished eight assists and swiped five steals in three games as a starter.
Then, in practice, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and was lost for the season.
What’s amazing, Coale said, is how Manning has come back since being cleared again to play.
“She jumped back into playing with a fearlessness that I have never seen a kid return to the court with post ACL (surgery),” Coale said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, because she’s like diving for stuff … and all kinds of crazy stuff. She just had no fear.”
Fans may be accustomed to the typical comeback story from ACL tears and surgeries. Always, the player is lost for the remainder of the season and, very often, it takes all of the following season on the court for the player to become comfortable and confident again on the reconstructed knee.
On the face of it, Coale’s report appears to offer a strong case that Manning will simply skip the year so many players require to get their head straight after their body has healed.
Another pleasant surprise, the coach said, has been the way a number of newcomer guards seem to be entering the program.
The group includes Gioya Carter of Midwest City,
Peyton Little of Abilene, Texas, and Derica Wyatt, from Brentwood, Tenn.
Coale made a point of not talking about “depth” a season after she lost all of her depth to injury. What she did say was that OU has “a lot of really good guards, guys who can do different things.”
“There is not one of them,” she said, “looking at it right now, that will have a problem competing, playing and making a difference.”
And, guards aside, what Coale’s seen from her entire class of newcomers has been impressive. The group also includes forwards Felisha Gibbs, of Earle, Ark., Shaya Kellogg, from Ames, Iowa, and T’ona Edwards, out of Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City.
“They came into the gym and played for about 45 minutes to an hour and I was absolutely blown away,” Coale said. “I was proud of their competitiveness, their ability to score, how quickly they had learned from the individual workouts this summer. It’s going to be a fun group. People are going to love them.”
The season doesn’t begin until Stetson visits Nov. 8 at Lloyd Noble Center in a first-round Preseason WNIT contest.
There may be much to look forward to.
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