April 15, 2021 

What Jennie Baranczyk brings to the Oklahoma program

And notes from around the Big 12

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Oklahoma head coach Jennie Baranczyk. (photo via Oklahoma Athletics)

After a quarter-century in the hands of Sherri Coale, Oklahoma University tabbed Drake’s Jennie Baranczyk as the next head coach of its women’s basketball program.

The Big 12 and the Missouri Valley Conference are entirely different animals, but the pedigree and playing style Baranczyk brings from her tenure at Drake should translate to Norman immediately. In the MVC, Baranczyk led her team to six-straight 20-win seasons and three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 2017 to 2019.

But how do you maneuver a changing of the guard after such a lengthy Coale regime? With an electrifying brand of offensive basketball, it seems.

Drake ranked second in the nation in assists per game this past season, no new feat for a squad that has ranked in the country’s top three since 2016-17, per Her Hoop Stats. Expect the two areas of Oklahoma’s offense that need the most work — offensive rebounding and playmaking — to be alleviated under its new head coach.

“In Oklahoma, again, you think about the background of basketball, there’s a fundamental style of play that’s really fun,” she said during a virtual media availability. “And honestly, I want these women to love playing, that’s where the assists come. That’s just a byproduct of really them loving to play and loving to play together, so we will instill that.”

Baranczyk’s squads at Drake have thrived in the modern offensive game. Under her leadership, Drake took an abundance of its shots in the paint and from beyond the arc, passing up the less-efficient midrange shot for higher-value offense looks. Her teams have attempted midrange shots at about half the rate of an average Division I team, according to CBBAnalytics.

That shot profile, coupled with constant movement, makes the future Sooners an intriguing threat at the top of the conference and an attractive destination for incoming recruits. 

Baranczyk will have plenty of talent to work with on the Oklahoma roster. For as poor as its defense was this season — the 104.3 defensive rating ranked last in the Big 12 — the Sooners know how to score. 

“The first thing you do is you come and you coach your team, right, and then you recruit to that style and that system,” Baranczyk said. “But I think these women really fit well in terms of the style and system that we will play. And we do want to get uptempo. Obviously, we’ll change up some things defensively and we’ll be very competitive.”

That offensive style should play right into the hands of marksman Taylor Robertson, who has perhaps the quickest trigger and most lethal outside shot in all of college basketball. Robertson’s shot profile is wild, and her catch-and-shoot savvy should take center stage next season. 

Robertson’s field goal percentage by zone (left) vs. her shot selection by zone (right)

Baranczyk will also get to unlock Madi Williams. It seems absurd that a player who was a unanimous First Team Big 12 selection, averaged 20 points per game and dropped 45 points in a conference game has another level she can reach. But there is plenty of room for Williams to grow in her senior season.

Williams was tasked with creating much of Oklahoma’s offense last year, which meant she often had to settle for contested midrange looks late in the shot clock. Her strength, shot creation and basketball IQ will be on full display in a free-flowing offense next season. 

Without a true center in its rotation (the injury-plagued roster often only had seven or eight players who could suit up), Williams also had to carry plenty of Oklahoma’s weight on the defensive end. A deeper rotation to 2021-22 should free up her energy.

Gabby Gregory also returns to Oklahoma after averaging 16.6 points per game in her sophomore season and should be an immediate benefactor of a new offensive style, as a disproportionate number of her shots came off of assists.

In essence, Baranczyk will have no shortage of options to work with.

Recruiting and the future

With a full roster, this group feels like it has untapped potential. And Baranczyk has lofty goals out of the gate for the future of Sooners basketball.

“The Big 12 is a beast of a league,” Baranczyk said. “And there is talent, everywhere. But our goal is to win championships, and to compete for championships.”

As for her roster construction, Baranczyk said she plans to focus on recruiting in the state but won’t be limited by it. Her teams at Drake followed the same structure, with most of her top players coming from Iowa and the surrounding area.

The Big 12 status should grant her access to a better class of recruits, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be new challenges. It would certainly help to hire assistants with strong recruiting backgrounds.

Baranczyk stressed that she wants her assistants to come from other parts of the country, which could broaden the team’s recruiting scope. Since 2015, all of the Sooners’ top-100 recruits have come from Oklahoma and Texas.

“We will be able to have access and be able to recruit at a higher level because we’re at Oklahoma,” she added. “But in terms of starting home first, that’s where we’ll start.”

Oklahoma regularly brings in one or two top-100 recruits each year, and has 66th-ranked Kelbie Washington arriving this upcoming season.

Transfer notes outside Oklahoma

  • Longhorns guards Celeste Taylor and Karisma Ortiz have both transferred out of Texas. Taylor has landed at Duke. Though the move was surprising, Danny Davis of the Austin American-Statesmen reported that there was “no ill will” between Taylor and head coach Vic Schaefer. It was difficult for her to be separated from her family during the pandemic.

  • Schaefer enters 2021-22 with three top-25 recruits, including two guards in Rori Harmon and Kyndall Hunter, who were teammates in high school.

  • In another surprise, Iowa State freshman guard Kylie Feuerbach entered the transfer portal last week. The former top-100 recruit was a key part of Iowa State’s future, starting 22 games as a freshman and averaging 5.7 points per game.

  • Baylor sophomore guard Jordyn Oliver, who joined the team as HoopGurlz’s 12th-ranked recruit in 2019, entered the transfer portal at the end of March. She averaged 4.0 points per game this past season and appears to have untapped potential.

  • Texas Tech’s Lexi Gordon joined Celeste Taylor as the second Big 12 guard to transfer to Duke during this cycle. She averaged 15.8 points per game last season and should bring plenty of perimeter offense to the Blue Devils.

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Written by Spencer Nusbaum

Atlanta Dream & Big 12 reporter, breaking news and other things.

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