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July 10, 2014

OU-NHS connection still strong

NORMAN — The Norman High-OU connection is going strong.

Norman’s original high school has a long sports history with the college the city revolves around. Numerous Norman High School athletes have gone on to The University of Oklahoma to play for the Sooners, and several Sooner athletes have gone to NHS to coach.

The girls’ basketball program may have one of the more memorable connections. OU women’s coach Sherri Coale got her start leading the Tigers to a string of state tournaments, and she has been a regular spectator during the last several years while her daughter played at NHS.

When Matt Thornton came to NHS two seasons ago to take over the boys’ program, he brought Michael Nealhim in as an assistant. The sharpshooting Neal, played at OU during 2005-07 seasons and set the Big 12 record for 3-point percentage in conference play at .495 during his senior season.

After two years of coaching the junior varsity boys,

Neal has received his chance to take over a head coaching position, the same one that Coale occupied until she took over OU women’s basketball program in 1996.

And he’s bringing some Sooners with him.

Neal is retaining from the previous coaching staff Carolyn Baker, a guard who played for OU from 2005-08. And he’s bringing in Morgan Hook, who graduated in May and was co-captain of the Sooners last season, to coach the freshmen.

For Neal, there was no doubt how he wanted to build his staff after accepting the position.

“I had some coaches in mind; I contacted them and they were on board within a few hours,” he said. “We’re excited to get started with this team.”

Having three former collegiate players on the staff gives the coaches instant credibility with a young Tigers team, and everyone in the program has stayed busy this summer preparing for a fast-approaching academic year that will bring new faces both on the court and on the sidelines.

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