OKLAHOMA CITY —
“It’s tough, but I think what I’m most upset about is just ending this year and just ending this journey with the girls.”
Hand probably didn’t realize it, but what she was really saying was that it would be tough to leave a group that lived up to her very own legacy.
She tore both of her ACLs during her time in the crimson and cream, losing her first sophomore season, much of her second and most of her senior season. She married Landry Jones but her athletic history has more in common with Jason White, everything but a sixth year in uniform.
The effort she offered amidst it all was awe-inspiring. The good humor with which she accepted it all — at least what she let be seen, because the raw competitiveness that’s also a part of her must have made for at least some unseen rage — was an example for observers far beyond coach Sherri Coale’s basketball program.
One way or another, though she would probably disagree, Hand always offered her best.
It rubbed off.
After she went down, it was like the effort she’d always played with had been handed to Joanna McFarland, who had another big game, finishing with 14 points and 16 rebounds against the Lady Vols.
Some of it was picked up, too, by Ellenberg, whose defense was almost as important as her offense against UCLA, the game that brought the Sooners back to Oklahoma City.
Her leadership rubbed off on Hook, running the point, and her accountability rubbed off on Griffin, who wasn’t very good Sunday, but whose game has still come a very long way.
It’s kind of perfect.
In Hand’s absence from the court, her team found a game that honored her example, one she never stopped leading it toward, one that should do plenty for it going forward when she’s no longer around but certain to still be watching.
“She’s a warrior,” freshman guard Nicole Kornet said. “We all look up to her.”
In the end, she stood and watched.
It couldn’t have been easy. And still, but for it all coming to an end, Whitney Hand had to like what she saw.