Seven seniors left a big hole in the roster for the Oklahoma Baptist University women’s basketball team, and those veterans have been replaced by youngsters ready for a challenge.

Seven seniors left a big hole in the roster for the Oklahoma Baptist University women’s basketball team, and those veterans have been replaced by youngsters ready for a challenge.
“It’s exciting to start a new year with a lot of new faces, but we have some big shoes to fill,” said OBU coach John McCullough. “We lost an All-American in Tauj (Travis), the defensive presence of Ashley (Harrell) and Amy (Pryor) and the energy of Vivi (Vedrana Milakovic).
Those are the issues we tried to address in recruiting.”
OBU returns only three players from last season — seniors Gabby Mattox and Sam Smith and junior Bridget Reynolds.
“Those three have to be leaders on this team because we’re so young,” McCullough said. “I’m cautiously optimistic. We’re showing good signs of developing a chemistry. Our biggest goal is to improve every practice and every day and if we do that and do it right, it will manifest itself in games.
“We’re not really as athletically talented as we were the past few years, but we’re really coming together as a unit.”
The front court is where all the experience is for the Lady Bison, with Reynolds able to play multiple positions. Mattox is the leader in that group after averaging 12 points and six rebounds last season.
“Gabby is a team player and she can play in the lane, with her back to the basket and she’s good at creating shots for teammates,” McCullough said. “We need her to be consistently good scoring and on defense if we’re going to be successful this season.”
Reynolds could see her dues-paying first two seasons pay off this year.
“Bridget’s minutes went down a little last year and that was frustrating for her, but I think this is going to be her breakout year,” said McCullough. “She’s got all the qualities. She can score, defend well and rebound. We’re looking for her to leave her footprints on the league this season.”
Smith is expected to have an impact if she can overcome past health issues.
“Sam is that defensive presence in the low post that you need in the Sooner Athletic Conference,” said McCullough. “The key is to keep her healthy. We need her on the floor.”
Sophomore Meredith Treat, a transfer from Palm Beach Atlantic, and freshman Brenna Burnett from Dale High School join the team this season.
“Meredith will be a good player for us,” said McCullough. “She’s 6-0 and a good three-point shooter. She’s a relentless worker.”
Burnett, along with Dale teammate Linlee Blevins, Allie Brandenburg (Concordia Lutheran High) and Lauren Crenshaw (Newcastle High) make up a solid freshman corps.
“That’s a great group of freshmen,” said McCullough. “They’ve come in and worked hard.”
Burnett earned All-State honors and led Dale to the 2009-10 Class 2A state title.
“Brenna knows how to win and she has a good mid-range jumper. She works hard and she’s one of those high-character kids,” said McCullough.
The back court is entirely new. Along with the freshmen, OBU has added Kanisha Cooks, a transfer from Lamar, and Diamond Austin, who comes in from Lon Morris. OBU also has promoted Lexie Searles from the junior varsity team.
“Kanisha is small and scrappy,” McCullough said. “She’s got a lot of grit in her game and she’s a shooter you can’t neglect. Diamond has that high energy level and she can really get after it defensively. She brings a lot to the table.
“Allie is a tough competitor and really mature for a freshman. The kids listen to her and she has gained a lot of respect because of how hard she works. We’re excited to have Lauren as a shooting guard. She’s a high-character kid and another hard worker.
“Linlee is a good three-point shooter and Lexie is going to help make us a better team.”
OBU’s schedule is loaded with NAIA Tournament experience in Union, Freed-Hardeman, Bethel, Langston, Evangel, Columbia and the always rugged SAC.
“This schedule may be a little too much for such a young team,” McCullough said. “We’re going to take our lumps, but I think it will get us ready and make us a better team.”
OBU also features a new crop of assistant coaches with Casi Bays as the assistant coach and Lindsey Newpher in as graduate assistant.
“I’m really glad to have Casi here,” McCullough said. “It’s good to have a female coach on the staff and one that has played here and has head coaching experience. The girls love her and she’s already making an impact out on the recruiting field. Lindsey is hungry to get into coaching and eager to learn and get a head coaching job.”
The new-look Lady Bison hit the floor at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 against visiting Dallas Christian.