ENID, Okla. —
Kati Sullivan might have been the happiest person on the Northern Oklahoma College Enid bench Saturday when the Lady Jets beat Eastern 89-73 to win the Region 2 women’s basketball championship.
“I was really proud of them,’’ Sullivan said. “They were playing so hard.’’
Her teammates should feel the same about her.
The Anadarko sophomore might be the perfect role model about handling adversity after tearing her ACL for a third time in her career and the second with the Lady Jets.
Her season was cut short for a second straight year in November when, during a fast break, she went up for a rebound.
“I came down on it wrong, and it popped,’’ Sullivan said. “It happens in sports. I’ve been through it twice, so why not three times.’’
There was no self pity or saying “why me.’’
“First, is trusting God,’’ Sullivan said. “I know he wouldn’t put me through anything that I couldn’t handle. I just try to keep a positive attitude about it and not look at the negative things.’’
That could be difficult when you want to be playing for a team bound for the nationals.
“It really hasn’t been tough,’’ Sullivan said. “I wish I could play, but I’m proud of them for making nationals. I just go through it. It makes me stronger for later things in life.’’
She has gone through a maturing process from the homesick freshman, who almost quit during her first semester last year.
“I’m glad I didn’t,’’ Sullivan said. “I’m a stronger person for this. I not only have a different outlook on basketball, but life as well. I appreciate the little things that I do have.’’ Like still being a part of the team.
She went to all the games and sat on the bench, being both an encourager and a little bit of an assistant coach.
“I’m doing the little parts,’’ Sullivan said. “I can see things maybe they can’t. You can’t see everything when you’re playing.
“I don’t think of it as a hard thing on me. It is hard, but I’m trying to take more responsibility of being an encourager for the girls who are playing and being there for them to support them.’’
She offers advice for head coach Scott Morris and constantly asks him what she can do to help the team.
Sullivan is one of only four returning sophomore from last year’s team, but has formed a bond with the many freshmen on the team.
“We talk on the bench,’’ Sullivan said. “We get along very well. I think on some things they will listen to me being a player where they wouldn’t a coach. I just try to treat everyone the same.’’
She is rehabbing with hopes of coming back as a third-year sophomore. Several NOC Enid players have done that, including All-American Deeva Vaughn and All-Region performer Christa Beasler.
“I’m going to give it my all,’’ Sullivan said. “I’m doing a lot of knee exercises and weightlifting to strengthen my knee and the ligaments inside. I haven’t been able to run yet, but I’m working on it. All of this just makes me appreciate the game a lot more.’’
Sullivan also offers support to fellow sophomore Paige Eaton, who has been sidelined for the season due to injury.
Sullivan said she is doing “great in school’’ and has concentrated more on her studies.
Morris appreciates how Sullivan has handled adversity.
“She has gone through a lot,’’ Morris said. “She’s a great kid and great player. She has matured. We definitely have missed her. Rylie Swanson and Kori Fast have been excellent leaders, but we always could use more sophomore leadership on the court.’’
Sullivan is excited about going to nationals, even though she won’t be suited up, and will be watching instead of shooting the threes Morris recruited her for.
“I’m still going to be part of it,’’ Sullivan said. “At the beginning (the first of the three injuries), I might have asked, ‘Why me’, but it came to the point where I knew if God didn’t think I could handle it, he wouldn’t put me through it.’’
Sullivan has handled it just fine.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.