Despite a second-round exit in the NCAA tournament and losing star seniors Ana Llanusa, Taylor Robertson and Madi Williams, Oklahoma second-year head coach Jennie Baranczyk confidently says the team’s “foundation” is already set in stone.
“I think we’re lucky that that’s been the foundation, that it’s just the next people up,” she told The Oklahoman in November.
“We’re the gatekeepers of this program. So that’s what we look at less than how we need to replace people.”
Baranczyk’s squad will have to play without the injured 6-2 redshirt senior Liz Scott, who averaged a career-high 8.6 points and 6.3 rebounds last season, but as Baranczyk told the press, her “leadership” will be expected as she steps into a new role. Kelbie Washington, who redshirted last season after starting 16 games in 2021-22, will also not be suiting up this year.
So, what can Sooner fans expect?
A roster full of versatility and ranging skill sets. Oklahoma native Lexy Keys transferred to Oklahoma after three impressive seasons at Oklahoma State, where she started 71 games and dropped buckets on her current squad, including two 14-point performances as a junior and a 20-point gem as a sophomore. From her shooting to her off-ball movement and ability to hold it down on the defensive end, Baranczyk describes her in The Oklahoman as “just somebody that you have to have in your program.”
The Sooners also have two former five-star products suiting up this year, including 5-10 freshman forward Sahara Williams and junior Payton Verhulst, who transferred in from Louisville. Williams averaged a double-double as a senior at Waterloo West High School, was a McDonald’s All-American and won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2022 3×3 FIBA World Cup. Meanwhile, Verhulst was ranked No. 12 in the country by ESPN during her time at Bishop Miege HS and played a pivotal role as a freshman during the Cardinals’ Final Four run. With expectations on Williams to grow into a star and Verhulst’s elite court vision, the Sooners have two valuable pieces.
“Take the star out, I don’t care if she’s two-star, you’re going to love her,” Baranczyk said of Williams in The Oklahoman. “But you can see why she is [a five-star]. She’ll develop her skill set. She’ll have days where, you know…‘Oh my God, she’s only a freshman,’ then other times you’re like, ‘OK, yeah, she’s a freshman.’”
Williams isn’t the only freshman who posted a double-double in high school—6-3 center Landry Allen averaged 20.6 points and 10.3 rebounds as a junior en-route to leading Tuttle High School (OK) to its first state championship; and as a senior, Allen was ranked the No. 10 center in the Class of 2023. Sophomore Beatrice Culliton’s family is state royalty—her grandmother dropped 58 in a high school game, shattering the Oklahoma scoring record at the time. As for Culliton, she was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team last season and appeared in every game, so best believe this isn’t her first rodeo on the big stage.
Go up and down the roster and you’ll see a solid squad that can drop buckets and hold its own on the court. Don’t just listen to us; tune in this season and see for yourself.