- Health and Exercise Science
A committed student, Hand has already earned her undergraduate degree, completing her bachelor’s in health and exercise science in December 2011 with a 3.76 GPA. She is now studying for a master’s in human relations. Hand was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team in 2012 and advanced to the Academic All-America ballot. She was an Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree in 2011 and 2012, the two years she was eligible for the award.
Hand was recently elected to serve as a team captain for the fourth consecutive season. When she went down with a serious knee injury early in her sophomore year, it was like the air had come out of a balloon. Yet, she still found a way to be a leader and to be relevant to her team. She took the spot on the Sooner bench closest to OU head coach Sherri Coale and she became like a coach. In many ways, she was the translator, taking her coach’s plans and turning them into action by her teammates. One person who has observed her leadership described her ability to lead in this way: “I’ve watched Whitney lead her team towards a lifestyle of humility, integrity, hard work and accountability. It is not uncommon to see college athletes act out of a sense of pride and entitlement due to their individual talents. Whitney, however, has utilized her position as a college athlete to inspire others towards good things and to embrace the responsibility that comes with her status.” After her injury, Hand went through rehab in what those close to the program called “Whitney’s Way.” She was ready when the Sooners took the court for the 2011-12 season. At least, she thought she was ready to be one of the team leaders. Little did she know that in a space of three months, two of her teammates, veterans who were going to be counted on to help lead a young team, would go down with season-ending knee injuries.She became a role model for her teammates because they know she came back for them. She is a role model for other athletes who are dealing with serious injuries, reaching out to them to share the strength she used to get through the test to help them.
This is probably the point where Whitney Hand moves to the highest level of student-athlete. Through the OU team, Hand participates in the Sooner Big Sis program. Each week, she goes to her assigned Norman elementary school to spend time with the students. The tasks she performs are varied but the commitment to be there for the children is something that never changes with Whitney.
On a regular basis, Hand and her teammates head to Oklahoma City for some quality time with the pediatric cancer patients at the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children, OU Children’s Physicians Hospital. There are other trips for Hand and her teammates to the Oncology floor at Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center. These trips aren’t about Hand – they are about the children she smothers with love while she is there. She is a role model for her teammates and others who make the trips with them. When Hand walks into a room with children battling a foe worse than any opponent the Sooners have had to face, she makes sure the children and their families know that they are the most important people in her life at that point. Just over two years ago, OU assistant coach Jan Ross was talking with the college pastor of a local church, expressing her desire to get involved in mission work during her off time. At the time, the church had begun work with Mission of Hope in Haiti and that looked like a great option for Ross. She went to Hand and Danielle Robinson, the team’s captains, and asked what they thought about it. Soon, a trip to Haiti for the women’s basketball team was in the works. Scheduled to make the first trip in May 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010 and the trip was in doubt. Eventually the decision was made to proceed with the trip and Hand took charge of getting her teammates committed to the trip and to the fund-raising needed to make a trip like that a reality. Hand embraced the project and she made sure that everyone who had indicated a desire to go was on the trip when the group left Norman in mid May. According to Coach Ross, the trip for Hand was a chance to build her team while they helped children who were living in desperate conditions. In fact, Ross believes that it meant more to Hand that her teammates were involved in the trip than if she had gone by herself. For a week, the Sooners exchanged their comfortable living conditions and fairly normal lives for living conditions that were better than most in the devastated country but still less than desirable. They worked with children in the school, emphasizing the importance of staying in school and the importance of getting an education. They helped with building projects on the school grounds and they shared their faith with the children. And while there were basketball games and clinics, Hand couldn’t participate in those the first year because of her rehab from her knee injury. She had a solution for that, though. She had taken several bottles of nail polish and was constantly swarmed by children who wanted their fingernails painted and she obliged. After the first trip, Hand was on the recruiting trail again, knowing that other Sooner teams would benefit from the experience. The obvious first stop was with her then-boyfriend, now husband, Sooner quarterback Landry Jones. Inspired by Hand’s experience and enthusiasm, Jones began recruiting his teammates to sign up for the May 2011 trip. In the end, nearly 40 people from the Sooner women’s basketball and football teams spent another week in Haiti. They repeated that trip in May 2012. For Hand, service is the first priority, excellence in competition is the second. Through her actions, she has demonstrated that her first priority is to serve others, whether they are her teammates, pediatric cancer patients in a hospital ward, children who have seen the worst that adults can be, disabled adults whose gifts are often overlooked and children in a country that seemed to have nothing left to lose before a devastating earthquake wiped out what was there.
Hand has earned recognition for her play, including being named to the Big 12 Championship All-Tournament Team (2012); All-Big 12 First Team (2011 and 2012); NCAA Championship All-Region Team (2009); voted Big 12 Freshman of the Year (2009); All-Big 12 Honorable Mention (2009) and to the All-Big 12 Freshman team (2009). She passed the 1,000-point mark during her junior year and will no doubt be among the leaders in several OU career stats when her career ends.In 2011-12, when the Sooners lost two veterans to knee injuries and the season outcome looked in doubt, Hand rose to a new level. She accepted the role as the leader on and off the court for the Sooner team. Still hobbled some by her own injury, as the leader, she could not take a seat on the bench. She led the team in minutes played, the fourth highest average per game ever by an OU player, and was the team leader in rebounding and second in scoring.