Blessed.

If Autumn Avina picked one word to describe herself, that is the one she would choose.

Blessed.

If Autumn Avina picked one word to describe herself, that is the one she would choose.

This summer she didn't feel blessed. In fact, she almost dropped out of school and gave up on her basketball dreams.

That would have been tragic for her and her team. Avina, a senior at Oklahoma Baptist University, was recently named the Division 2 National Player of the Week. She is the first Lady Bison to receive that honor since the program moved from NAIA to D2. 

But it almost didn't happen. 

Avina was raised by a single mother in the military. That means Avina's grandmother was instrumental in helping bring Avina up. Her father was incarcerated on and off after she was three. When she was 10, he was jailed for a longer term and she has only recently begun talking to him again through frequent letters.

Avina's family is important to her. When her grandmother passed away this summer, it was more than she could handle on her own. That's when her OBU family showed her what she meant to them.

"Everyone was calling me and texting me just to make sure I was okay," Avina said. "It is a huge blessing to see what God is doing in my life through this school and my team."

Avina said she was excited when everyone told her about the honor as player of the week, but she doesn't like to win individual awards. 

"I got an award for scoring when other people pass to me and getting assists when other people score," she said. "I would be nothing without a great team around me. There are three or four more on our team who could receive this honor."

She said the one thing she enjoyed about winning the honor was the light it shined on the team to make sure everyone across the country knows they are a team to pay attention to.

"I want to bring all the attention I can to this program. We all do," she said. "We don't have a superstar. Our superstar is our starting five, the players on the bench and even the coaches. We are a team."

That attitude is part of the maturity that Coach Casi Bays has seen in Avina in her three years on campus.

"She has always brought energy, even when she was out of control," Bays said. "She has grown as a player and matured and that is a difference that everyone can see. She is one of the better point guards in the conference."

Bays said in her third year running the offense, Avina knows what she wants and makes it happen.

"It's like she can read my mind now," Bays said. "She is growing each game."

Avina said her decision to return to campus and the team after a tough summer was the right one.

"Shawnee and OBU are a blessing in my life," she said. "I didn't grow up where people watch out for you and care about you. We had to watch our backs. It is so different here. I had to come back for my mom so she can see that I'm not getting in trouble and following God's plan for me."

Bays said Avina's play and leadership will be important if this year's Lady Bison will overcome injuries and adversity to grow as a team and have success in conference play and the end of the year tournaments.

Avina said she thinks the second half will be where the Lady Bison prove themselves. 

"We have a lot to prove and we're working hard to get there," Avina said. "We're ready to surprise some people."

The Lady Bison are back in action in conference play tonight at the Noble Center against Southern Nazarene. They host Northwestern Oklahoma University Friday.

Thursday night's game is a White Out game. The teams are asking fans to wear white to support the teams against SNU.