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Oklahoma Sooners Women's Basketball guards Kelbie Washington and Taylor Robertson enjoy themselves at a cafe in France. (Photo by Johnny Smiley)

Featured Article

An Amazing Dream So Far

Becoming a Sooner Truly a Gift, Says Kelbie Washington

She fell in love with basketball. She knew she wanted to play basketball to represent her hometown and the state’s premier institution. There was one challenge.

“My mom told me I wasn’t very good, that I needed help if I was going to play, DI, Power 5,” Kelbie Washington shared.

“She knew former Sooner Coach Michael Neal from school—had known him forever through her work with Norman Public Schools. She told Coach Neal, ‘This girl needs help. Could you work with her?’ I was blessed to have him work with me, and we built a great relationship.”

They continued to work together, then fate stepped in and Neal became her freshman coach at Norman High. The working relationship continued to thrive, and Kelbie continued to improve as her dream became more defined.

She was named The Oklahoman’s Super 5 Player of the Year as a senior and was a three-time coaches association All-State selection. She was named coaches’ association player of the year as a senior and was the association’s defensive player of the year twice.

Her dream to play for her hometown, DI Power 5 team, the University of Oklahoma, appeared to be coming true.

“I always wanted to play for my hometown. I wanted to have that hometown support. I wanted to rep my state—that was the dream.”

Kelbie signed with then-OU head coach Sherri Coale, who retired at the end of the 2020-21 season. The new staff, led by Jennie Baranczyk, were quick to help Kelbie’s realize her dream. And once again, she would have a familiar face on the sideline as Neal was named to Baranczyk’s staff.

There would be another challenge that Kelbie and her Norman High team had to face. A hot radio microphone picked up a conversation in which one of the broadcasters used the “N” word. Kelbie and her teammates stood up to the racist comment and repeated as state champions.

“As a black female, I wasn’t surprised, but we were not going to let it push us back. We battled through the tournament and winning was the cherry on top. We had to prove people wrong, and no way were we losing. Racism is still a thing. I was a senior leader on that team and those are my girls. I took it personally because it really hurt to hear that and to see the impact on my girls. It’s how you respond to it. We handled it in a very mature way, and I really felt like I was ready for college.”

Kelbie enjoyed the new start.

“With the new staff, we were all learning at the same time. It took the weight off our shoulders, and we had really good leaders. We all held each other accountable and did that in a respectful way. We built a great foundation last year and we have continued to build since the season ended.”

A trip to France in August gave the team a chance to practice and play games against two pro teams while continuing to add to the building process. The trip started in Cannes, went to Monaco and Lyon, then ended in Paris. In addition to the games, the team visited the sites of a new country, including the French countryside, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre in Paris. One Sooner really enjoyed her visit with the Mona Lisa.

“I had this dream … to play at the DI level for a Power 5 team, preferably in my hometown. Becoming a Sooner is truly a gift, and I am forever grateful,” Kelbie added. “I am excited to see what comes next. It has been an amazing dream so far.”

  • Oklahoma Sooners Women's Basketball guards Kelbie Washington and Taylor Robertson enjoy themselves at a cafe in France. (Photo by Johnny Smiley)
  • (Photo by Ty Russell)
  • (Photo by Michael Lark)