By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
It’s back to where they started from.
One-time junior high rivals who became teammates for four years at Muskogee High School, Kelsey McClure and Alexus Wilson will find themselves on opposite sides of the court Saturday when Oral Roberts University takes on Central Arkansas at the Mabee Center in a 3 p.m. tip[off.
But it’s been a while since McClure was at Alice Robertson and Wilson was at Ben Franklin, squaring off on the basketball court two seasons before coming together as equally core pieces of the Muskogee Lady Roughers.
Both were three-time All-Phoenix selections and part of a team that came within a game of back-to-back state tournament trips. Now, Wilson is at ORU, McClure at UCA.
“We’ve definitely come full circle,” McClure said. “I look at it as a blessing and achievement for both of us to say we’ve made it this far.”
In their first seasons in college, McClure, last year’s All-Phoenix MVP, is averaging 3.7 points in 9 1/2 minutes and has a season-high 11-point effort against Central Baptist on Nov. 14. She was slowed after suffering a concussion after taking a charge in a game against Southern Mississippi on Dec. 16.
Wilson has averaged 7.5 points in 17 minutes. She’s scored in double figures four times, including her first two games (12 off the bench against Science and Arts and then Kansas, then had a season-high 17 against Navy.
“She’s had a great start to her career as a freshman contributor,” ORU coach Misti Cussen said. “Having played the eighth toughest schedule in the nation in Division I, she has played against some extremely high caliber teams and competed well, producing some outstanding stat lines on a few of the games.
“I expect her to continue to contribute on a consistent basis throughout conference play. Her strength and athleticism are outstanding, and she continues to improve in practice on a daily basis.”
The limited playing time for both, even as freshmen, is something new for the pair of four-year high school starters.
“It’s nothing I wasn’t prepared for because everyone here was a star somewhere,” McClure said. “You’ve got to have the mentality to not give up and that’s where a lot of players go wrong is if they’re not getting the playing time they think they should or want, thinking that they’re not doing their jobs.
“My time depends on the flow of the game and the matchup. When you’re needed to get the job done, you’ll be on the court, whether 20 minutes, 9 minutes or 2 minutes. Other than that it’s about showing improvement and that’s about practice and patience. You go out every day and show you are what you say you are.”
Wilson says she’s just having a good time.
“You have to come out ready to play every day, in practice and in games. It’s fun and I love to compete,” she said.
Their rivalry will be short-lived. McClure the standout on the Alice Robertson squad.
Yet it will be a short-lived rivalry. What looked like a four-year run will be limited due to ORU (2-10) moving back to The Summit Conference next year, ending a two-year relationship with UCA (8-5) and the Southland Conference. The return matchup is Feb. 22 at Conway, Ark.
“Any time you go up against an old teammate, it’s fun, so I am excited about the game,” Wilson said.
Sometimes when top players merge into a high school squad such as these two did, chemistry is difficult. McClure was quick to point out that she considers Wilson a sister, contrary to some who thought the two struggled to achieve chemistry.
“A lot of people had that perception but for me and I think for her it was never about who scored the most or played the most or best,” she said. “We both had our good nights and our bad nights along the way and the other would pick it up when the other was down. We were competitive, yeah, but both of us went out there wanting to win.
“If someone wants to see another way that’s their business. But the two of us were friends long before we started playing. As far as I’m concerned whatever drama was not anything between us.”