The six freshmen joining the ORU women’s basketball team have more in common than their age.
Jordan Doyle, Esther Udoumoh, Jayden Oliver, Faith Ihim, Jordan Gilbert and Jasauen Beard all played high school basketball in Oklahoma.
Five of them, Doyle, Udoumoh, Ihim, Gilbert and Beard, played in the two Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State basketball games. Doyle, Udoumoh and Ihim played for the Large East team while Gilbert and Beard played for the Large West team.
The Large East team won the game, something the winners remind the losers of regularly.
“There were two [All-State] games and their side won it both times so they brag about that a little bit,” Ihim said.
Doyle couldn’t deny that statement.
“I do [brag] sometimes,” Doyle said. “Broken Arrow gave us shirts, and sometimes I wear them.”
The players transitioned from opponents in high school to Golden Eagle teammates at the collegiate level with the hopes of winning bigger titles.
“I’m glad they’re with me instead of against me,” Ihim said. “They are really good players. They’re good assets to the team. It’s fun having them around. They’re good ball players. They’re good teammates. They’re supporting and encouraging, and they challenge you to play harder.”
Their experiences in the All-State game and their experiences playing against each other in high school games draw them closer together.
“I’ve learned their weaknesses and their strengths; how they like the ball to be passed to them, when they want the ball and when they don’t want the ball,” Doyle said. “It helped build more of a connection with them.”
Doyle played point guard for Broken Arrow High School. Her senior year, the Tigers went 28-0 and won the state championship.
“Jordan [Doyle] is really fast,” Ihim said. “She’s a really good point guard. She brings a lot of tempo and fast pace. She can see the court, so she’s good at passing the ball and distributing it.”
Ihim was a record setting forward for Memorial high school. Her 1,613 points and 1,079 rebounds are both school records.
“Faith [Ihim] and Jordan Doyle bring quickness, fast pace, aggressiveness and everything,” Udoumoh said. “They are really powerful players, and it’s just a blessing to be with them on this basketball team. They’re great people to be around. On the court, they are ready to play. Their athleticism is phenomenal. They’re really great players.”
Forward Esther Udoumoh led Union High School in rebounding her last two years and averaged over 10 points per game as a senior.
Doyle and Udoumoh weren’t just opponents on the court, but good friends as well. Their relationship carries over to the court at ORU.
“It helps us a lot, not just being teammates, but actual friends, to build a real relationship so we can be really comfortable with knowing how we play with each other on the court,” Udoumoh had said. “It’s really great to have her as a friend on the court and off the court.”
Gilbert played guard for Carl Albert High School in Oklahoma City. “Jordy,” as the team calls her, averaged almost 14 points per game as a senior.
“Gilbert is fast, she can dribble the ball, she can make plays,” Ihim said. “It’s a challenge to play against those kind of people.”
Oliver played guard for Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City. She was a two sport athlete, lettering in softball all four years of high school as well.
“Jayden Oliver is a pure shooter coming off the bench,” ORU Head Coach Misti Cussen said. “I think that’s going to give Dorka [Balla] some breathing room that she doesn’t have to [do it all herself].”
Jasauen Beard was a star forward at Midwest City High School in Oklahoma City. She was expected to be a key contributor before tearing her ACL.
“Jausaun was probably our most multi-dimensional freshman that we had in that group,” Cussen said. “We’re going to miss her contribution. She’s kind of the emotional leader also.”
The freshmen on this year’s team won’t be sitting in the background. Cussen expects them to impact games early early and often this season.
“Even though we’re young, we’re very experienced,” Doyle said. “We’re not just rookies not knowing much about it. We’re very athletic and we know the game and have knowledge for the game. That’s really going to shock a lot of people, that even though we’re young, we can still compete.”