STARKVILLE, Miss. – As the final buzzer sounded at Humphrey Coliseum, Loryn Goodwin, Kaylee Jensen and Mandy Coleman walked toward the bench with emotions starting to flow through their bodies.
They played their final game for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team Monday, losing 71-56 to top-seeded Mississippi State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sitting down in the media room, that realization set in for the three seniors. The interview session started smoothly, but when they were asked to reflect on their individual journeys as college basketball players and their times in Stillwater, tears started to flow down their faces.
“I just want to say thank you to the entire coaching staff and all the members of the staff at Oklahoma State,” Jensen said. “Without them, I don’t really know where I would be, right now. It has been a great four years, and it is sad to see it go. But, I thank them for every opportunity they have given me because it has been a lot.”
OSU coach Jim Littell said Jensen, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, was the biggest success story he has coached in his 40 years. He said Jensen, who hails from Genoa, Nebraska, which has a population of 1,003, wasn’t highly recruited. Littell said Jensen, a center, made an impact and her name known, rewriting numerous records in Stillwater.
A forward from Stockton, California, Coleman went next. Coleman, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds, kept it short, trying to avoid more tears.
“I am very thankful for this opportunity,” Coleman said. “I didn’t think I would be playing D-I basketball. I am glad I finished it out hard with a great team.”
Goodwin went last. Before landing in Stillwater, Goodwin, a guard from Cypress, Texas, played at and transferred from North Texas, Butler and Texas-San Antonio; she started to answer but paused.
Then, she sat silent seemingly thinking about all the moments throughout her journey to OSU and the memories she will never forget from her season in Stillwater. Goodwin, who finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, didn’t utter a word for 13 seconds.
Tears began to flow as she sat next to her coach and teammates, causing emotions to swirl about the media room at an extended level. She finished with a moving answer, though.
“I am just really appreciative of this opportunity,” Goodwin said. “One decision changed my entire life. Last year, I was at a smaller Division-I school. Nobody even knew who I was. My teammates accepted me onto this team for one year to do exactly this, making a run in the NCAA Tournament. That was our dream.
“… We were able to do some incredible things. I would have never have even dreamed of this. Playing the tournament was my main goal, and now I am into the second round playing against a No. 1 seed. I would have never imagined that, so I am just really appreciative of this team and just being here, honestly.”
Goodwin said she continues to be thankful she decided to finish her career at OSU. She also echoed her teammates, saying she is extremely appreciative of the opportunity the coaching staff gave her.
“This decision truly changed my life, and now people know who I am,” Goodwin said. … So, I am really thankful.”
Although their collegiate basketball journeys came to an end Monday, the success in life for Goodwin, Jensen and Coleman as only begun.
Littell said he told them to remember their accomplishments as student-athletes and to think about the bigger picture.
“These three seniors have been our leaders on and off the floor,” Littell said. “They embody what a true student-athlete is about; they are all tremendous students. They are all going to be highly successful in life. I told them when they get out and start making all the money that ole’ coach Littell will mow their yards for a cheap price. … All these kids are winners on and off the court.
“… I couldn’t be more proud of these kids.”