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Group project: How Cowgirls are replacing Natasha Mack

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Natasha Mack

Natasha Mack goes up for a layup against Iowa State on February 20, 2021 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Jim Littell can’t ask one person to do it, that’s nearly impossible.

Littell, the Oklahoma State women's basketball coach, has to replace center Natasha Mack, who was selected 16th overall in the 2021 WNBA draft. Mack was the 2021 NCAA Women’s Defensive Player of the Year, and powered OSU to an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament. She now plays professionally in Poland for AZS UMCS Lublin.

Last season, Mack was OSU’s best defender, averaging four blocks and 12.4 rebounds a game. She was also statistically OSU’s best scorer, contributing 19.8 points a game.

Littell isn’t putting the burden of filling Mack’s shoes on one player, mentioning seniors Kassidy De Lapp and Brittany Reeves as centers who will play the minutes Mack left behind.

“We don’t expect those two young ladies to get 21 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots a night, but they need to combine to come up with 14-15 points a game and 12 or 13 rebounds,” Littell said.

The message Littell said his staff is preaching is to replace Mack collectively.

The Cowgirls will also be without their previous starting point guard, Ja’Mee Asberry, who transferred to Baylor in the summer. Nearly half of OSU’s scoring last season came from the combination of Mack and Asberry.

Last year freshmen guards Lexy Keys and Tali Natoa and forward Taylen Collins were expected to find their role and eventually contribute. Their roles will change because of the holes left in the lineup by Mack and Asberry.

“It’s about those players changing their role,” Littell said, “realizing that they’re going to be expected to do more because of the graduation, and I think those kids are ready to meet those challenges.”

Along with players simply stepping up, Littell is doing things to help fill the role. He said he has plans to alter his scheme to be more guard-oriented.

“(Mack) brought a lot of points to our team last year, but I do think especially in the Stanford (NCAA Tournament) game, a lot of freshmen stepped up which is something that we’re going to have to hone in on this year. But I think it’s something that we all could do.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com