After putting on their uniforms and warming up in the Nest 58 times over the past four years, 11 members of the Oklahoma Christian University men and women’s basketball teams took to the court for their final home game of their collegiate careers on Saturday.
“If you had asked me at the beginning of the season how I felt about playing my last few games, I would have said I was ready, but now I am trying to hold on to every second,” senior forward Hannah Holasek said. “I never realized how quickly it would come. It is bittersweet.”
Holasek, a Biology major from Lexington, OK, transferred to Oklahoma Christian after playing two years at Northern Oklahoma College-Enid.
“My first year here was definitely a transition compared to National Junior College Athletic Association rules, but this has been the year I have had the most fun,” Holasek said. “I honestly thought about not playing my last two years and just being a normal student, but I felt like basketball was still what I needed to do.”
For the Lady Eagles, Holasek has scored 101 points, managed 86 rebounds and added 21 assists. On campus, she is a part of the Theta Theta Theta women’s social club and the Eagle Health Initiative. Off campus, Holasek participates in clinic volunteering and shadows physician’s assistants, as she hopes to attend PA school after graduation.
“I have had a blast,” Holasek said. “So many people have put so much time and effort into me — mentoring me and helping me know what I want out of life. To the seniors next year, hold on to it. It goes by super fast, but take the initiative to make it the best you possibly can. Yes, there are going to be some negative times, but hone in on the positives.”
Senior forward Emma Gade, a math education major from Stillwater, OK, joined the Lady Eagles during the 2013-14 season, after playing two seasons at Oral Roberts University.
“I just liked the people, the coaches and the program,” Gade said. “I like what it all stands for. OC is a great place to be. The past few years have been full of great memories. The friendships I made here are something I am going to hold onto for the rest of my life.”
The NCAA granted Gade a sixth season of eligibility after injuries cut short two of her collegiate seasons. For the Lady Eagles, she has scored a total of 153 points and 89 rebounds, with career-highs of 15 points and 8 rebounds.
After earning her bachelor’s degree last year, she is currently working on her master’s degree. She has served as a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representative at Oklahoma Christian, as well as tutored during her time on campus.
“I want to stay in college basketball for as long as I can, hopefully as a coach,” Gade said. “I love the game and the people I am able to meet through the game. The opportunities it brings, it is just unmatched.”
Senior guard Kylee Hicks, an accounting major from Choctaw, OK said she chose to play her four years at Oklahoma Christian because it was close to home and had the Christian values she was looking for in a university.
“It has been a learning experience,” Hicks said. “Through my team I have grown a lot as a person. Coach Findley is always good about going beyond basketball and teaching us values as young, Christian women. We have done a lot of volunteering in the community, things that would grow us as people both on and off the court.”
Going into her final collegiate home game, Hicks said she felt more excited about the future than sad this chapter of her life is coming to an end.
“I have played basketball for a long, long time and I knew it was going to come to an end at some point, so it has not really been a sad thing for me,” Hicks said. “I am just ready to be out there and cherish it with my fellow seniors and my other teammates.”
Hicks will return to campus next fall and graduate in December, with plans to either pursue a master’s degree or attend law school.
“I kind of wish that it was more than four years because four years was not enough for me,” Hicks said. “I just enjoyed every second of it and I cannot imagine not taking the opportunity to play here. I would not give it up for anything.”
Senior guard Luis Lopez, a sports, wellness and recreation management major from Edmond, OK, heard about Oklahoma Christian through his head and assistant high school coaches, who all played basketball for the Eagles.
“I have had a deep connection with OC during high school and from coming to Cage Camp,” Lopez said. “It has always been rooted in my heart and I think it has been cool to see it come full circle. I visited April of my senior year and he had a walk-on spot available, so I committed right then and there. I knew that I wanted to be a coach, so there was no one better to learn from than Coach Hays.”
Going into his final home game on Saturday, Lopez said he knew it would be bittersweet to play his final game in the Nest because he has made so many memories in the gym.
“Back in 2004, I remember coming to camp in the Nest, Coach Hays blowing his whistle and me getting into triple threat,” Lopez said. “I remember it all like it was yesterday, so Saturday will definitely be emotional. The people I have met and the experiences I have had are what I am going to take away from my time here. Obviously, I wish we would have won a couple more games, but people always say you are who you surround yourself with and I think I have surrounded myself with some pretty great people at OC.”
During his time at Oklahoma Christian, Lopez has served as a representative for the SAAC and is a member of FCA. In addition to working at the fitness center all four years, he helped coach an Amateur Athletic Union team the summer before his sophomore year and, this past summer, he traveled around the country working basketball camps at different universities.
“I tried to just dive into the game and immerse myself in basketball,” Lopez said. “I want to get into coaching, get my master’s degree and be a graduate assistant somewhere. When Coach Cole came this year, I saw it as another learning opportunity and I felt there was no better place for me to learn and grow as a player and hopefully a coach, than OC.”
Lopez said he encourages next year’s seniors to embrace their role on the team, work hard in the summer and learn how to grow as a team.
“I have had an amazing support system here, whether it was my professors, friends, teammates or coaches,” Lopez said. “OC in general just creates an environment of self-improvement and self-growth — whether it is in athletics, academics, the arts, music or whatever you are involved in. I just want to say thank you to all of those who have helped me along this journey and helped me reach my goal of playing collegiate basketball.”
Other seniors for the men and women’s basketball teams include McKenzie Stanford, Sarah Parker, Dontasia McAfee, Keilan Horton, John Moon, Zach Norris and Zak Wilson.
Both teams will travel to Lubbock Christian University on Thursday before the Eagles face Dallas Baptist University in their final game of the season on Saturday.
Statistics provided by the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Information Office.