NORMAN — Norman High was once the class of big-school girls’ basketball in Oklahoma. There have been times in the last two decades that the Tigers were mainstays in the state tournament.
Bethany Franks wants to bring that back. The freshman is part of a maturing Tigers team — one that has started three freshmen this season — that may have the talent to do that.
“I want this year to be the year that people start talking about the Lady Tigers again,” she said on Tuesday, as NHS prepared for a three-day tournament at Westmoore that will give the young Tigers another chance to gain valuable experience. “Our motto this year has been to ‘shock the world.’ We’re underdogs right now, but we hope to do big things.”
The Tigers have had a tough start to the season, going 1-5 while bringing up the young players and missing starting forward Erica Mitchell to injury, but there are signs those growing pains are beginning to pay off.
The biggest reason is Franks.
She provided a breakout performance at the Bartlesville tournament last weekend, averaging 20 points while helping to lead the Tigers to their first win of the season. Alongside senior Taylor Ely, Franks has provided the one-two scoring punch the Tigers have lacked in recent seasons, and the inside-outside combination gives NHS a formula that coach Nichole Copeland can build on as the Tigers enter a busy second half of the season.
Copeland has praised Franks’ work ethic in the past, and is excited for what the future holds for her team.
With Ely and fellow senior Chandler Coale setting the example for the freshmen seeing the court, the Tigers have improved every time they take the floor, and Copeland is pleased with the progress they’ve made
“This group is used to winning and brings a youthful joy to the game,” she said of the freshmen. “They don’t make the same mistakes twice, and they’re learning and improving every day.”
For Franks, the adjustment to the high school game was helped by her extensive experience playing AAU basketball. But that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy transition, nor has learning to play with a whole new group, most of whom are as young and inexperienced as she is.
But, while the buzz around the Tigers is almost always about how young they are, it’s not something Franks or her teammates are willing to use as an excuse.
“’Freshman’ is a word we don’t want to use,” she said. “With our team we have to play like we’re not. We’re playing with seniors so we have to play older and scratch and claw like everyone else.”
Not that she’s willing to say she’s completely comfortable yet with everything about the high school game.With so much responsibility on both ends of the floor being asked of her, the mental aspect of the game is something she’s still focusing on.
Still, she’s showing more confidence on the floor with every passing week, and staying focused on her goals for the season.
“I want to make sure the seniors have the best last year they can,” she said.“Every time we step on the floor it’s a learning opportunity, and we’ve grown tremendously since our first game together last summer.”
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