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Ex-Shadow Mountain girls hoops standout Heavenly Greer adapts to college, COVID-19 at Oklahoma

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 7/23/2020 Dana Scott, Arizona Republic
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Moving into a college dormitory can be exciting and nerve-racking for a freshman student living away from their family for the first time. 

The latter feeling could be heightened, especially for student-athletes entering desolate campuses this summer as COVID-19 continues its harrowing grip at every turn in life.

Oklahoma women's basketball freshman Heavenly Greer moved into the school's Headington Hall on July 18. Greer was one of the Valley's top forwards along with The Republic's 2019-20 All-Arizona selections Alexandra Zelaya, Alyssa Brown and Kennedy Basham before Greer transferred to Ganesha High School (Pomona, California) in 2019.

Shadow Mountain's Heavenly Greer drives downcourt against Seton Catholic during the 4A girls basketball championship on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. © Sean Logan/The Republic Shadow Mountain's Heavenly Greer drives downcourt against Seton Catholic during the 4A girls basketball championship on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

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The former Phoenix Shadow Mountain 6-foot-3 standout, Greer is focused on earning a psychology degree and playing in the WNBA after graduation.

"I chose OU because I feel like I will make a great impact on the program and being here will help me achieve not only my athletic goals but my academic goals, too," Greer said. "They have a great psychology program and that’s what I'm majoring in. As for basketball, I talked to our coach and told her my goal is to go to the WNBA and I feel like I will get the training here that I need to pursue that goal."

a couple of people that are standing in front of a building: Jul. 18, 2020; Oklahoma women's basketball forward Heavenly Greer (left) holds up a "welcome home" sign standing beside her mother, Vanessa Greer, as she moves into Headington Hall on the university campus. © Vanessa Greer Jul. 18, 2020; Oklahoma women's basketball forward Heavenly Greer (left) holds up a "welcome home" sign standing beside her mother, Vanessa Greer, as she moves into Headington Hall on the university campus.

Before her first day in the gym on campus Wednesday, Greer and the incoming Sooner freshmen underwent coronavirus tests in addition to the battery of physical exams for the protocol to stay healthy and safe. 

Greer and her teammates' training schedule is rigorous, with extra hurdles to clear as they attempt to build team chemistry to improve from their 12-18 record last season. 

“Right now, I have morning workouts for about an hour and then get like three-hour break and we’re going for lifting," Greer said. "That’s about the schedule we have now but the coronavirus has not really affected my workout schedule because I can go to the gym and pop shots. As long as I’m safe then that’s all that matters."

Still, Greer, her Oklahoma coaches and teammates are adapting to team training and college life in the COVID-19. 

One of Greer's teammates who recently tested positive for the coronavirus and another is quarantined for contact tracing, according to Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale. 

The coaching staff has been conducting Zoom calls with the returning team members and incoming freshman — after they completed their high school courses — since the spring. The virtual team building will continue on campus to adhere to social distancing.

The team members and coaches have to wear masks during workouts, and standard policy includes disinfecting all the training equipment.

"Training is interesting, to say the least. Playing basketball in masks is challenging, especially after having not played basketball for four months," Coale said in an email. "Our players have been fantastic, though. I haven’t heard one complaint. They’re all so grateful to be back with one another and working. We have been going in small groups to minimize player interaction as these first two weeks are about safely returning to play — from a fitness standpoint as well as the COVID standpoint.

"This is an unpredictable disease and a challenging situation for everybody but the preparation for our return has been thoroughly thought out and the plan has been professionally executed." 

Chance to be 'a difference maker'

Playing in a Power 5 conference is a huge first step towards Greer.

Her Ganesha head coach Vincent Spirlin knows there is some pressure to perform at that level.

"I've spoken with her on occasions and told her that when you get to the next level, it's going to be a whole lot different as far as conditioning," Spirlin said.

Spirlin also acknowledged Ganesha didn't have a high school girls basketball player of Greer's caliber before her arrival.

Greer is a versatile two-way threat on offense and defense with lateral quickness, sinewy length and strength, and 3-point shooting range. She can creates her own shot off the dribble and possesses court vision to penetrate the lane and distribute the ball to enhance her team's play.

Greer averaged 26 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, five steals and seven assists during her senior season.

As a junior in 2019, Greer helped lead Shadow Mountain to a 28-3 record and the 4A state title.

"Transferring from Shadow Mountain was a very hard decision because we had done so well that season and won the state championship," Greer said. "But what made me make that decision was more about my academics and not about basketball. Moving to California was to improve more in the classroom other than the court."

Ranked No. 23 in the nation at her position in the ESPN's Class of 2020, she led the Giants to a 25-4 record and the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section title, before losing in the second round of the CIF girls basketball state playoffs to Point Loma (San Diego).

She ended her high school career scoring 1,403 points and snaring 820 rebounds.

"(Heavenly) has a chance to be a difference maker — immediately — and an impact player, long-term. She has so much potential," Coale said. "Her athleticism is what hits you immediately. She’s a quick jumper with long arms and soft hands. I think what stood out most to me (in her first workout) that maybe wasn’t as clear watching her in the stands during the recruiting process is her quickness.

"She is definitely tall and long and smooth but she is quicker than I had imagined. And in only a day, it’s pretty clear that she’s an athlete who can and wants to learn. That’s always the differentiating trait for incoming freshmen. Her versatility and her desire to learn and improve make her a beautiful fit for our program."

Adjusting to uncertainty

The college sports fall schedule is still in flux heading into the fall semester and that possibly could alter basketball in winter. And the ongoing question about fans attending games for the 2020-21 academic year has yet to be finalized by the NCAA.

It's a scenario most student-athletes and coaches don’t find ideal.

But for Greer, studying her favorite subject and playing the game she loves for a sports powerhouse will alleviate her transition away from home.

"Being that there would be no fans allowed in the gym up, they probably will affect me but will probably have to get used to not hearing fans scream and shout and get excited for moves that we make on the court," Greer said.

"As long as we still get a season, I think that’s the most important thing. But not having fans in the audience is something new that I’ve never experienced so I will have to see."

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Ex-Shadow Mountain girls hoops standout Heavenly Greer adapts to college, COVID-19 at Oklahoma

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