CHICKASHA – With the women’s basketball season opening up this weekend, the Drovers are gearing up to improve on last season and take it a day at a time.
Assistant Coach Leandra Johnson said she has high hopes for the team’s success in her first season at USAO.
“I think we will do really well this year. We’re very athletic, all of the girls, and we work really hard,” Johnson said. “One of our main goals is to build from last year and just go up.”
The key to the team’s success this year, Tompkins said, is just to take it a day at a time.
“Let’s go out and just compete and be ready to win one day at time,” she said. “You can’t look too far ahead because the one that’s coming up will bite you.”
Point guards Tabby Bailey and Paige Pulliam will be back for another season, along with centers Victoria Russell and Hannah Henry. Also returning are forward Tashina Ototivo, who has been with the program since Tompkins joined, and forward Liberty Payne, who has been working with the team since winter break last season.
In addition to having a core set who know the program and know the system, Tompkins has pulled in some junior college and NCAA Division II talent.
“I think they’re really going to have good experience, and they can shoot the ball from the perimeter, but they’re very interchangeable in their positions,” Tompkins said. “They’re very diverse, which makes it exciting as a coach.”
Two recruits out of Arkansas Baptist — Sharnice Reed and Alaria Waddle — will bring athleticism and quickness to the team. Additionally, Tompkins said height could prove to be in USAO’s advantage as the average team height is 6-foot-1.
Another recruit both Tompkins and Assistant Coach Leandra Johnson are excited about is Takoia Larry, from Odessa College, who will be eligible beginning in January.
Along with those players, two of USAO’s transfers are from the Oklahoma area. Lauren Campo and Natalie Colton will join USAO directly from Cameron and Southwestern Oklahoma State universities respectively.
Another major playmaker will be Marissa Medrano, a 6-foot-4 recruit from Eastern Oklahoma State College, who is spending the summer playing for the Mexican national team.
“I finally feel like we’ve pulled in our own recruits to fit our system a little bit,” Tompkins said.
Because most of the recruits are coming from junior colleges and other universities, Tompkins said it brings in the experience she is looking for.
“As freshman, you can’t tell them until they see the action for themselves,” she said. “Everything is a little bit faster; everything is a little bit quicker. These girls really have good experience. They’ve seen that kind talent.”
After a few pre-season scrimmages, the coaches have a good understanding of what to expect out of the team this season.
“In the scrimmages, we had our moments when we did things really well and then the moments where we didn’t, but overall I think we did well in our scrimmages,” Johnson said.
Tompkins also expressed excitement in working with Johnson, a former player of hers, who is starting her first season as an assistant coach at USAO
“She just relates to the players so well, but very mature for her age and has wisdom,” Tompkins said. “It’s just neat to have a kindred spirit who has been through the system, so she knows what the girls are experiencing.”
After the Drovers’ first game on Friday, Tompkins and the team will meet and set some goals for the season.
“We really want to lay out some of the goals, but as always I have my internal goals and unspoken goals,” she said. “We really want to try to look one game at a time and keep improving and compete, and I really think that will take care of itself in the post season.”
The Drovers open the season in a tournament at Southwestern Christian on Friday and Saturday and then play their first home game on Monday against Texas Wesleyan. Tip off is 6 p.m.