OU women's basketball has had quite an offseason.
Besides the 2019-20 season ending prematurely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, star senior guard Ana Llanusa will miss the season due to injury and the Sooners have lost three players to the NCAA Transfer Portal — Chloe Bloom and Aspen Williston in the offseason, and Kamryn Lemon during the season.
There's also first-year assistant coach Courtney Paris, who in her first-ever coaching job led the team through being isolated at home and returning to campus while taking the precautions for COVID-19. But nonetheless, Coale said in a Zoom call Friday that she's handled it all very well.
"Courtney's handled things really well," Coale said. "It's been hard though. I'll tell you, the hardest part of coaching in the pandemic is trying to figure out how to have a presence on a basketball court while you (where a mask). It's hard. And she's trying to figure out what to watch and what to tell them and it's a challenge.
"But she's adapting well and and doing a great job, especially with our bigs."
One of the Sooners' biggest bright spots going into the season is junior guard Taylor Robertson, who was named an All-Big 12 First Team member on Wednesday and broke the Big 12 season-season 3-point record with 131. Coale said Robertson's development over the offseason has been great for the season, as she prepares for defenses trying to limit her touches. Robertson has also been working on her defense more in practice as well.
"She's getting better," Coale said. "She's getting better at understanding, spacing, and how to attack the ways that opponents have found to limit her touches. ... She's improving as a defender, and I think that's two things. I think it's her understanding, but it's also her confidence and her courage. Great defense is impossible to play if you're not courageous.
"I mean, this kid is gonna blow every 3-point record out of the water at the University of Oklahoma because she's gonna play for five years. And she's just going to continue to get threes because she's understanding how to manipulate the various coverages. So, she's a star. I love how she approaches her work."
Junior Madi Williams is another player Coale said has upped not only her skills, but her leadership as well. Coale compared her to former Sooner great LaNeishea Caulfield, who averaged 16.1 points-per-game throughout her four years at OU (1998-2002). Like Caulfield, Williams — who averaged 16.1 points-per-game last season — has turned it up a notch later in her career.
"Everybody remembers (Caulfield's) junior and senior year, because right after her sophomore season, she turned the corner. And what she figured out how to do was how to compete at a high level all the time. She had always played hard, but she hadn't really competed at a high level all the time. And she figured that out. That's where Madi is right now. She's just a different creature than she was a year ago. She's just different. Her skill set's better.
"She's one of the ones that took that time in the pandemic very seriously, and worked on her handles, worked on her game, worked on her shot. So, her skill set's better, but her presence is greater and she's playing harder with purpose all the time."