Home Support system Kelbie Washington relishes her first year with OU women’s basketball

Kelbie Washington relishes her first year with OU women’s basketball

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NORMAN — Freshman of OU Kelbie Washington was everywhere on Jan 26.

In his Bedlam basketball debut, Washington controlled both ends of the court.

On the attacking side, she created plenty of scoring opportunities for her teammates, with seven assists for six different players.

Defensively, she was a pest for Oklahoma State, with four interceptions and creating plenty of other mayhem as the Sooners forced 23 turnovers in an 84-58 dismantling of OSU.

It was a moment Washington had been waiting for — and preparing for — for years.

“When I was little, I always knew I wanted to be like these players,” Washington said. “I was like, ‘Man, this looks so cool,’ playing OSU, a rival, just the feeling and the emotion that I thought they were getting.

“I always knew I wanted to feel that.”

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On Wednesday, Washington got a chance again when the The No. 19-ranked Sooners take on Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. in Stillwater.

Washington grew up just up the road from OU to Moore. She performed in high school even closer to Norman High.

She was in elementary school when she started dreaming of playing college basketball. It took a few years, but she finally focused on playing OU, before the recruiting process even started.

“I always knew I wanted to stay home,” Washington said. “I wanted to play for my hometown and be my hometown girl, just to be close to my family and have my support system.”

She expected to play for Sherri Coale and was surprised when Coale quit and Jennie Baranczyk took over.

But Washington never wavered in his decision to come to OU, even before Baranczyk was hired.

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“I knew I always wanted to be at OU,” Washington said. “So my decision never changed. ‘Maybe I should leave? Maybe I should look at other options?’ No. I always knew what I wanted to do and I always had good faith in Jennie even before I met her.

Washington remembers being immediately struck by Baranczyk, from the first conversation they had.

“I was like, ‘Man, this is someone I want to spend my next four years with,'” Washington said. “And it was just very obvious.”

Along with the personal connection they developed, Washington liked Baranczyk’s aggressive style of play.

“Jennie’s philosophy is fast pace, freedom and just playing your game and doing what you want,” Washington said. “That’s how I’ve always been. … When I found out about Coach Jennie and her offense and defense, I thought, ‘Man, that’s just perfect.’ I like to use my aggression, competitiveness and speed to beat people.

Then it got even easier when her high school coach, Michael Nealjoined Baranczyk’s team as an assistant coach.

Neal’s presence eased the transition for Washington.

“It’s great to have a familiar face,” Washington said. “It was just a great blessing to see him every day.”

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Their relationship has evolved a lot, from his first interactions with Neal before high school, to his helping her become Oklahoman Super 5 Player of the Year last season so far, training him in college.

“I’m not a little girl anymore,” Washington said. “It’s different. But I’m just happy that he’s here and doing his thing as an assistant coach at the college level.

It hasn’t been completely smooth for Washington.

There are still times when she shows her youth on the court. But as the season progressed, those moments became rarer while the good times became more frequent.

“When she makes a mistake, at the start of the year, she gets really hard on herself,” Baranczyk said. “And you can still tell she is, but she’s able to make it to the next flight.

“She works really hard on her game. … She’s quick, she’s tricky, she’s fun, she can score on the rim. At the beginning of the year, she went there for the shooter, then she went there to pass it. Now she comes in to do the reading. That progression, I think, has been really good.

Washington was rewarded with her unwavering desire to play OU. The same goes for the Sooners, who come into Wednesday’s game with their most wins since the 2016-17 season, and still have room for more.

“Look at us now,” Washington said. “We all do amazing things.”