By Jennifer Van Tuyl
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
For most, the transition from high school to college is a giant leap. Oklahoma freshman Whitney Hand has been able to turn it into a few small steps through the strength of her family, faith and teammates.
Hand grew up with strong support from her five siblings and parents. Her father, Rich, was a major league baseball player drafted by the Indians and was also a part of the Rangers and Angels organizations as a pitcher. Hand has benefited from his experience in dealing with the pressures of taking her game to the next level.
“I have learned everything I know from him,” Hand said. “He has been my mentor since I was six and started playing basketball. He has been my biggest role model and my biggest advisor.”
Hand's mother Susan serves the role of loving, supportive cheerleader.
“My mom is the sweetest lady you will ever meet and probably the biggest cheerleader in our lives,” Hand said. “She is just so proud to be our mom. She is awesome and she comes to all my games.”
Oklahoma sophomores Danielle Robinson and Carlee Roethlisberger remember their freshmen seasons and say that Hand has handled the pressure extremely well. They also recognize Hand's work ethic and how she's made a difference in this season.
“She came in being a great communicator out of high school,” Robinson said. “(Communicating) is where we struggled last year. I think her ability to do that and really help us change and make that a conscience effort has helped us this year.”
Hand, a 6-1 guard/forward, has started every game for the Sooners this season. She is averaging 9.5 points per game and leads the Sooners in 3-point field goals. Hand, who once beat Jason Terry of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks in a 3-point shooting contest, is making 40 percent of her shots from behind the line.
“She is always going hard, whether it is in practice or during a drill,” Roethlisberger said. “She might not be able to jump the best or be the most athletic but she is always out there pushing people to do their best and working the hardest.”
Hand's teammates have been working on her moves off the court. Robinson said the Sooners love to dance and they are working on getting Hand to get on her feet.
“If we hear music everyone just starts dancing and she used to just sit there,” Roethlisberger said with a smile. “Now she hears music and she starts bobbing her head a little bit and moving a little bit.”
Hand’s family and teammates have influenced on her life but she also attributes having a level head and a strong faith.
“I totally believe that I love the Lord with all my heart,” Hand said. “I hope to play for Him every time I play and step on the court. It is not something to be ashamed of, it something to be proud of and I definitely am proud of it.”
Faith is not just a theme for Hand, but for the Sooners team. Hand likes being at a school where faith is encouraged because it helps the team during a game and in life.
The future holds more than basketball for Hand as she has already become an active leader within the university and Norman community. Getting involved in community service with the team and helping with Special Olympics is a top priority. Hand envisions a future in physical therapy and going on medical missions after basketball.
“I don’t think we are out here only for basketball,” Hand said. “I think there is a bigger plan and a bigger reason for us all being together. When you get the perspective that there is so much more out there besides basketball and school, it makes dealing with stuff a lot easier.”