Oklahoma State showed some interest in Jessi Murcer but never extended a scholarship offer. It likely didn’t matter.
Murcer was starring at Westmoore High School, just a few minutes from Norman, and was likely bound for Oklahoma anyway.
“I picked up basketball when I was like 5 or 6, still extremely young. We would always watch [OU] games on TV. My grandparents had season tickets, so I’d come up here to watch these games,” Murcer said. “It’s pretty much been something I did growing up and I was like, yeah, if I get an offer from them I’ll probably end up going there.”
Wednesday, she’s expected to make her Bedlam debut in the starting lineup when OU travels to Oklahoma State (8 p.m., FSN). With seven in-state prospects combined on the rosters, the usual bragging rights are on the line.
Murcer and Cowgirl guard Ja’Mee Asberry played on an AAU team together. The pair crossed paths with Bryn Gerlich and Vivian Gray on the same circuit.
But beyond rivalry stakes, the Sooners simply need a win. They’ve lost eight in a row and OU coach Sherri Coale senses players’ urgency. OU hasn’t lost nine straight games since the 1996-97 season.
“The importance of continuing to get better,” Coale said. “I think that’s as great a focus as anything.”
Murcer, who averages 8.3 points, has been in the starting lineup the past 4 of 5 games as the Sooners have tried to fix things.
The flashes she showed in high school while scoring 2,065 career points and earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior have become more frequent during the back half of her first collegiate season. She scored 18 and 13 points, respectively, in back-to-back games against Iowa State and TCU recently.
Andrea Guziec knew while coaching Murcer at Westmoore that she could compete for a starting role immediately regardless of OU’s roster situation. The Sooners been forced to play many freshmen with just two upperclassmen on the squad.
Norman High coach Michael Neal told Guziec before a game once that Murcer was the most prolific scorer he’d ever seen in girls high school basketball. “And I was like, you know what? He’s right,” Guziec said. “I’ve never coached anybody who was able to do what she does.”
Murcer’s ball-handling and confident scoring ability have kept her on the floor as OU’s Big 12 schedule intensifies. In a recent loss to Texas, she drove the lane on a fastbreak, faked a pass to freeze a defender and coolly finished a layup.
“I think I’ve always been able to do it, but it’s just getting the confidence to do it now,” Murcer said. “Sometimes as a freshman, it’s more about playing free and having fun with it. When you’re overthinking things you’re not gonna do that type of stuff.”
Coale wants Murcer to be better without the ball in her hands and away from the ball on defense, but likes the way she’s carrying herself as a potent scorer. Her presence is forcing defenses to focus on her earlier in games.
“I think she’s had that. She brought it with her [from high school],” Coale said. “She continues to be undaunted in that regard. And I love that while she’s building these other things she’s maintaining that.”
Time/Place: 8 p.m. | Gallagher-Iba Arena; Stillwater
Records/Rankings: OU (5-15, 1-8 Big 12); Oklahoma State (12-8, 3-6)
OU starters: G 0 Jessi Murcer (5-7, Fr./8.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G/F 25 Madi Williams (6-0, Fr./12.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg); G 30 Taylor Robertson (5-7, Fr./15.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G 22 Ana Llanusa (6-0, So./12.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F 3 Mandy Simpson (6-1, So./5.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
OSU starters: C 1 Kennedy De Lapp (6-3, Fr./4.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg); G 12 Vivian Gray (6-1, So./18.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg); G 14 Braxtin Miller (5-10, So./17.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F 20 LaTashia Jones (6-2, Sr./4.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg); G 21 Ja’Mee Asberry (5-4, Fr./7.1 ppg, 2.4 apg)
Series: OU leads 61-42
Radio: KREF 99.3 FM; 1400 AM