OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Tulsa Shock might finally have the tools to start winning.
New coach Fred Williams, second-year guard Skylar Diggins and No. 2 overall pick Odyssey Sims have helped the Shock finish the preseason with an unbeaten record. It’s a small step for a franchise that has gone 29-107 in the regular season since moving from Detroit. The Shock open the regular season Saturday at San Antonio with confidence.
”It starts with the preseason, so we’ve been through that season of developing a winning mentality of stepping on the floor and winning games,” Williams said. ”It’s just having a mindset, on and off the floor and in the community that we are working hard to be winners.”
Diggins and Sims will join All-Star forward Glory Johnson in trying to turn Tulsa’s fortunes.
Diggins was solid last season – she averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 assists – but her play didn’t match the hype that surrounded her entrance into the league. She’s been up to the task so far. She scored 25 points in the preseason opener May 2 against the Silver Stars, then scored 30 and made the game-winning free throws against the Silver Stars on May 6. She followed with 23 in a 107-61 victory against the Chinese national team on Monday.
Williams said Diggins has worked hard with a personal instructor and has returned determined and focused.
”I think she’s improved in the offseason,” Williams said. ”I think the structure of the things we do offensively and defensively have helped her.”
Sims, the nation’s No. 2 scorer at Baylor this past season, scored 24 points in less than 10 minutes against China. The Shock also have Riquna Williams, who averaged 15.6 points per game last season, and Candice Wiggins, who averaged 10.1 points last season, to go along with Diggins and Sims in the backcourt.
”It’s going to be good to have different combinations out there,” Williams said. ”It works to our advantage. Those players are hard to guard.”
The guards will play off Johnson’s inside game. The forward averaged 15.0 points and 8.9 rebounds last season and shot 45 percent from the field.
The Shock won’t have last season’s leading scorer, 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage, this season. She chose to remain in Australia to prepare for the upcoming FIBA World Championships.
Tulsa also will be without forward Tiffany Jackson-Jones. She will undergo surgery on her right shin next week and is expected to be out six weeks. Williams said he expected her to be a double-double type player. Her injury puts more pressure on Johnson and Courtney Paris, who played college ball at Oklahoma.
Jordan Hooper, a second-round pick from Nebraska who was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2014, is expected to play a significant role. Williams said he expects her to be up for rookie awards by the end of the season.
With all those pieces, Williams is excited about the future.
”The energy is good,” he said. ”Hopefully, everybody stays healthy.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP