There is something in the air at the Western Oklahoma State College campus and for once, it has more to do with the Lady Pioneers basketball team than it does the ever-successful baseball team.
For several years now, the program has been in dire need of a reboot with much of the teams’ struggles obvious to any who have attended home and away games while the squads’ successes have been few and far between. It has been that way for quite some time and up until last season, it was looking as if things would never change.
But then something happened that nobody had expected and the program began to turn around under the leadership of Eddie Broughton, Sr.
Broughton’s penchant for revitalizing failing teams and steering them down a path of sustained success is well documented — he did it at St. Gregory’s and again at UCO — and it appears his plans for WOSC’s program may come to fruition as early as this upcoming basketball season.
Dissatisfied with a lackluster nine-win season during the 2016-17 basketball season, Broughton set out to change the face of Lady Pioneers basketball and although expectations are high, he knows the success or failure of this year’s team falls squarely on his shoulders now.
“We have a load of potential and that is the exciting part,” Broughton said. “Last year, everyone knew exactly what we were going to do — give the ball to Priscilla [Murray] or Raven [Ringo] and they’re either going to win us the game or lose us the game. That’s nothing against them — I told them to do it — but this year I have some scorers. I have a variety of talent. I have players stepping up that I wasn’t expecting to be as good as they are and I have players who I was expecting to be really good who have just been good and that’s fine too. It’s good for us because I don’t have to depend on one or two players, I have four or five who can put some points up. This year falls on me — this is my team, I went and found these players and brought them here.”
Despite being young — 14 of the team’s 17 players are freshmen — and mentally behind where last year’s team was at this point, Broughton believes the team is more physical, more athletic and more impressive on the court.
Leading the charge is a player Broughton had not intended to recruit but is now happy he did.
“Ke’Ira Pickett may be the biggest surprise of them all,” Broughton said. “I went to see Millwood play three times and she probably shot the ball five times in three games. I was recruiting someone else and she was just someone who was out there. The other girl signed with Butler Community College and the coach told me I had to sign Ke’Ira. So I offered her something and now she is one of my top two players. She’s small, she’s quick, she can shoot the three and get to the hole.”
Broughton expects Pickett to start at point guard, Princess Williams at shooting guard, Paige Delsigne at small forward, Shaelee Brown at power forward and Jai’Lynn Anderson at center.
He has been excited about what he has seen so far and is expecting big things from both his freshman players and sophomore players.
“Paradize Jackson and Ariel Williams are my top two recruits,” Broughton said. “Kiandra Knight is coming along well, Kendra Fairley doesn’t have much experience but she has a raw, natural ability to play the game. Shaelee and Jai’Lynn will be my top rebounders along with Kendra. Kendra will be one of my top if not the top rebounder on the team. I have about nine or 10 girls that I can put on the court right now and be okay with.”
Even though the season has not begun quite yet, there are coaches who have contacted Broughton about this year’s team. He experienced some of that last year, but what he has heard this year has helped fuel his excitement.
“We had a coaches meeting in Tulsa and I had a couple of the coaches talking to me,” Broughton said. “They told me they had been talking and they decided we were the team to beat. I have three full scholarships compared to their 10 full scholarships and if I’m the team to beat, they should be ashamed of themselves. It’s always good to hear stuff like that — they’re talking amongst themselves and when is the last time anybody has talked about Western like that? It has been good. I’m just trying to stay consistent and focused.”
The Lady Pioneers will begin their season at Hill College against Cisco College at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 before facing off against Hill College at 2 p.m. the following day.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.