By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A few weeks ago, Oklahoma State junior center Kendra Suttles was fighting for playing time. Now she’s become the central piece of the Cowgirls’ offensive machine.
“She’s got a lot of skill,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “She’s crafty. She has a nice little spin move and she’s got a little playground in her.”
It’s that playground toughness that has helped Oklahoma State (18-6, 7-6 in Big 12) win three of the last four games heading into Wednesday’s game against Texas Christian (7-17. 0-13 in Big 12) at 7 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas.
“She’s a big help,” Oklahoma State senior forward Toni Young said. “A lot of players will key up on me, so to have somebody else that can score and rebound just makes it that much easier for all of us post players.”
What started as a decision to switch things up in hopes of catching Baylor off guard has turned into a blessing for the Cowgirls. In five starts, Suttles is averaging 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, adding some much-needed help to Young in the post.
“She’s been scoring a lot of points for us, but I think the thing that she’s most proud of are the rebounds,” Littell said. “She’s made a conscious effort to do a better job and it has really started to pay off for her.”
The results have been nothing but positive as those extra rebounds have resulted in blowout wins like the 35-point blowout against Kansas State Saturday.
“We really like the way she’s been playing lately,” Littell said. “She’s kind of come on and really stepped her game up. Obviously, we know that everybody is going to be keying on Toni every night and for good reason. But when you have a girl like Kendra down there that can battle for rebounds and score, it just adds another dimension to your team.”
Getting Suttles to this point has been anything but easy, however. Suttles struggled throughout much of her sophomore season and watched her playing time dwindle as the Cowgirls made their run through the Women’s NIT.
But then something inside her snapped and with the help of coaches like Jack Easley, she began to get more confidence and a brighter mindset.
“She’s done a complete 180 from a year ago,” Littell said. “She’s more determined. She brings a toughness every time she steps on the floor. We knew she had the skill, but now she’s really showing us what kind of competitor she is.”
Even after not starting the first 19 games of the season, the old Suttles might have packed it in already. Not this version. Suttles continues to fight for playing time and fighting to start on a daily basis.
“That’s what you want to see out of your players,” Littell said. “I’ve always said that nobody’s starting job is safe. We’re going to put the best five players we have out there. She’s earned that right because she has been working hard at getting better.”
It’s too early to say whether Suttles will become a permanent fixture in the Oklahoma State lineup. But after nearly a year of fighting for a starting spot, it’s going to take a lot to take that role away from her.
“We know she’s going to fight for us every night,” Young said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re going up against, she’s going to battle hard for us. She wants to keep her starting spot and she’s going to do whatever it takes.”