MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OU

December 16, 2012

OU’s leadership needs a Hook

— NORMAN – Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale is fairly adamant. Not only is nobody going to replace Whitney Hand in the Sooner lineup, nor need the mantel of leadership fall too hard atop any particular Sooner’s shoulders.

“It has to be more than one,” she said.

Yet as true as that may be, one may feel the responsibility in the way others don’t. If so, that player is junior point guard Morgan Hook.

It’s as natural as such a fit as can be. Already, the point guard position demands leadership. Also, alongside Hand, Hook was already a co-team captain.

“I think my role has changed,” Hook said. “In practice, I can’t come in and be quiet at all. Without (Hand’s) voice out there, it’s evident if I’m not talking. I don’t think it puts pressure on me, but I have to step up and be more of a leader.”

It would seem to be even more important in games and the Sooners have one today, their first since Hand tore the ACL in her left knee 10 days ago against North Texas.

Vanderbilt (7-3) and OU (8-1) tip off at 2 p.m. inside Lloyd Noble Center. The Commodores began the season in the Top 25 but dropped out after connective losses to No. 17 Dayton, Florida State and Virginia, a trio of teams with a combined record of 23-4.

Beyond being a point guard, Hook may even be the right kind of point guard: a steady one.

Nine games into the season, Hook is averaging 11.2 points per outing, and 3.6 assists against 2.3 turnovers per game. She’s hitting 45.3 percent of her shots and 40.5 percent of her 3-point chances. All solid numbers.

Now she’s looking to up that productivity a little while grabbing hold of the leadership reins.

“I’ve gotten used to (Hand) as a crutch,” she said. “Like she’s going to do it, she’s going to be there … and now I’ve taken on that responsibility.”

One witness is seeing it play out.

Now a spectator, encourager and traffic cop in practice rather than full participant, Hand has seen Hook and others pick up the pieces of leadership.

“I’ve seen Morgan become more of a leader than she’s been in her whole time here,” Hand said. “I’ve seen (center) Nicole Griffin say more words than I think she’s said in her whole time here. I see (shooting guard) Aaryn (Ellenberg) really making an effort to do everything right.”

Still, Hook’s role is a special one. Coale understands that, too.

“When the winds and the waves are howling, guys on the team would always look at No. 25 [Hand], and now I think that Morgan has to be that and she can be easily because she’s very even keel. She doesn’t get too high or too low.

“She’s different that Whit in terms of revealing emotion; you don’t see it on her, but that’s not all bad. She can be that rock for them.”

Today could certainly be an easier assignment. However, Coale likes that part of it as well.

“(Win or lose) we’re going to grow from it.” she said. “We hope we don’t have to be exposed to grow, but either way it will be great for our team.”

A steady and guiding hand from the Sooner point guard is bound to help a great deal.

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