NORMAN — It sounds like true freshman Gioya Carter was always going to have a role on Sherri Coale’s Oklahoma women’s basketball team this season.
All one had to do was listen.
“Gioya has a ‘Wow’ factor,” Coale said. “She has tremendous court vision and is very strong and physically very mature and ready to take the pace and the contact.”
So there’s that.
On media day, Coale was asked about how the Sooners will go about replacing Joanna McFarland, the Derby, Kan., post who found her game early her senior season and helped carry the Sooners all the way to a Sweet 16 stop in Oklahoma City last March.
The coach said it will take everybody to replace McFarland’s rebounds and toughness, but the edge she brought to the court might be found in Carter.
“She has a toughness about her and a bravado about her that has been somewhat contagious and it’s been really good because we have this team of really good souls that try really hard and are earnest in every phase of what they do, and they sometimes need a real edge to refine them a bit,” Coale said
She added that while Carter can be a goofy cut-up, on the floor “she becomes an athlete, and it’s special, and it resonates and in that regard, I get a little flashback to a kid named Stacey Dales.”
Anyway, Coale believes it and Carter and the rest of the 2013-14 Sooners will be on display for the first time against a live opponent when they meet Division II Cameron at 7 tonight at Lloyd Noble Center. Also, because misfortune has already hit the Sooners, Carter is sure to get an even bigger chance tonight.
Maddie Manning is out for a second straight season after tearing the ACL in her left knee in a scrimmage last week and senior point guard Morgan Hook is out with a dislocated thumb suffered in the same scrimmage.
True freshman T’ona Edwards, a point guard by trade, will start in Hook’s place, but Carter should be one of the first Sooners off the bench, capable of filling in at the point and two or three other positions on the floor.
Before practice officially began, Carter was impressing her new teammates with her work ethic and her ability to adjust to the demands of the college game, many of which begin with conditioning.
“All I can do is work hard and try to get better every day,” Carter said. “If I work hard to get better every day and I don’t play, then I'm still going to be able to live with that.”
But she should play.
An athletic slasher with an ability to get to the rim, yet with range that extends to the 3-point arc, Carter averaged 18.3 points and 7.4 rebounds her senior season at Carl Albert High School.
While Edwards, a Spencer native who played her high school ball at Northeast Academy in Oklahoma City, was named The Oklahoman’s Little All-City Player of the Year last spring, Carter was given the prize among the big schools.
“She’s ready,” Coale said.
Tonight, she can show everybody.
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