LAFAYETTE — Although Sylvana Okde established her shooting credentials through two seasons, the search continues for a couple of other things.
Okde, a junior guard for the Louisiana-Lafayette women’s basketball team, came to a jump stop during an open gym session in July last year. She is in the process of recovering from a resulting knee injury and subsequent microfracture surgery.
One thing she is looking for is space — the bit of room that a player with 148 career 3-pointers needs to take the next shot. Many of Okde’s teammates assist her on that mission. Guards Keke Veal, Kia Wilridge and Jaylyn Gordon often go into the lane with the goal of either creating a scoring opportunity or drawing a second defender and sending the ball to a spotted-up shooter.
The second item Okde has on her list is tougher to measure in terms of distance and basketball-court spacing. “I’m learning to have a short memory,” Okde said.
Having a short memory can be a requirement after missing a few shots. Other times, it is part of dealing with the ups and downs that come with recovering from multiple knee surgeries. “In July (2014), I tore my ACL and meniscus, sprained my LCL and fractured my knee,” Okde said. “Then in March, I had to get microfracture surgery. I broke off all the cartilage between my femur and kneecap. They drill holes in your femur to help get the blood going.
“It was an emotional roller coaster. I was just praying every night and trying to stay close to God because He would help me do it every day. One day it would be good and the next day I would have a bad day with my knee. That’s what I’m still going through now.”
Before those surgeries, Okde, a Houston native who picked up the nickname “Silk,” made enough 3-pointers in two years (148) to put her in fifth place in school history in that category.
“We scrimmaged (Monday) and she was excited,” Cajuns coach Garry Brodhead said. “She wants to get in there and I was surprised at how well she did in the scrimmage. All of our players have their spots and Silk is working to get to her spot. I love the competition of our kids wanting to play.”
Okde’s return to the court came in the Cajuns’ most recent win, a 71-52 victory over ULM. She played one minute. It was a starting point. The prospect of combining Okde’s perimeter shooting skills with a group that has averaged 68.7 points during a 5-1 start has assistant coach Katherine Katz enthusiastic about the possibilities. “It opens the floor for us,” Katz said. “Defenses can’t collapse in the paint as much. It opens up the paint having a pure shooter on the floor.”
While Okde endured her red shirt season last year, she decided to keep an eye on one aspect of the Cajuns’ game to see if that could help her later.
“I watched Kia (Wilridge) play defense,” Okde said. “I watched little things. I picked up a few cues. I would ask her, ‘”Is this something that you look for on defense?’”
That was all part of the process of Okde wanting to come back better than before. But within the enthusiasm, there was also reality. “We scrimmaged and it’s frustrating and exciting at the same time,” Okde said. “I was expecting to come back the same way and that’s not how it is.”
As Okde has seen her teammates grow while winning the Women’s Basketball Invitational last season, she smiled when she thought of her description of the current Cajuns’ offense. “We are very dangerous. There is nobody you can help off of (defensively) this year.”