Bedlam women's basketball: Natasha Mack and her 6-foot-11 wingspan making a difference for Cowgirls
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Jim Littell doesn’t spend a lot of time practicing shot-blocking with his team.
“I don’t know of a coach that has a shot-blocking drill,” Littell said. “Either a player has the ability to do that or they don’t.”
Natasha Mack has the ability.
The Cowgirls’ 6-foot-4 forward showed her talent for blocking shots last year as a junior-college transfer in her first season in the Big 12 Conference.
This season, she has elevated herself to become the best shot-blocker in the country, averaging 4.2 blocks per game with a total of 75 for the season — more than all but 18 teams in Division I.
“First of all, she’s got a 6-11 wingspan, and on top of that, she’s got a really good sense of timing,” Littell said. “She has the ability to go straight up. A lot of times, she’ll block a shot and recover it herself. It’s just a God-given ability that she has.
“She’s leading the nation in blocked shots right now, but I’d like to have a stat on how many shots she alters in a game as well.”
Oklahoma State hosts OU in the second round of Bedlam this season, at 7 p.m. Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowgirls are seeking their 10th conference victory and 14th win overall in 19 games.
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It’s not just Mack’s blocked shots that have helped the Cowgirls to a 9-3 conference record. She’s the nation’s top rebounder with 222 boards this season (12.3 per game). And she has become the leader the Cowgirls needed in a year with several young players entering the lineup.
“Anyone can be a leader,” Littell said. “But your true leaders are the ones who have the ability to put up the numbers and then back it in practice with how you practice, how you talk to your teammates, how you encourage your teammates. (Mack) is one of those kids who makes everybody feel better about themselves.
“She doesn’t have many bad days and that’s a very positive thing. I watch our stretch lines, and our kids are laughing, smiling, having a good time, and she’s in the middle of that.”
Mack is a team-first player, which is why her leadership is so valuable. But she has her individual goals as well.
“She’s got goals for our team and she’s got goals for after college is over, too,” Littell said. “She enjoys playing the game. She works hard every day. And she’s definitely a talent that can affect the game in a lot of ways.
“She’s always wanted to play in the WNBA. That’s always been a goal for her, and the reality of that is coming.”
Scott Wright covers OSU athletics. You can send your story ideas to him at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ScottWrightOK. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.