, Muskogee, OK


April 2, 2010

OU senior ready for biggest stage

NORMAN (AP) — Standing before a crowd of more than 12,000 people after Oklahoma’s senior night game, Nyeshia Stevenson looked comfortable and sounded polished as she spoke, all while coach Sherri Coale marveled at the guard’s transformation.

Stevenson was “the most comfortable kid in the world, making eye contact with people in the arena, speaking clearly and articulately, making sense, having a direction,” Coale said. “She’s a kid that when she came in here, looked at the floor when she talked to you. She’s a great story.”

Besides the self-confidence, Stevenson has developed on the basketball court and become a key reason Oklahoma (27-10) reached the Final Four for the second straight year. The Sooners will play Stanford (35-1) on Sunday in a national semifinal in San Antonio.

“It was (over) four years,” Stevenson said of her transformation. “I’ve gotten older and I’ve matured. ... Playing under coach Coale, she does things that develops you into a woman. Everyone is not the same. It’s going to be tougher for some and easier for some.”

The 5-foot-10 Stevenson was a three-sport star at McClellan High School in Little Rock, Ark. She was a top sprinter and won state titles in the long jump, high jump and triple jump as a junior and had opportunities to play college volleyball. She was named the most valuable player in a state All-Star basketball game after her senior season.

Yet she admittedly was a raw basketball talent at that point. Coale said Stevenson had relied more on her athletic ability to succeed than on her knowledge of the game. The coach thought Stevenson had tons of potential and speed to burn, enough reason to offer her a scholarship.

“We knew we had to get more speed on our roster and she was a beautiful raw athlete, the epitome of that,” Coale said. “You could just tell her hunger to come here and be part of this thing was off the charts.”

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