Courtesy of The Bastrop Daily Enterprise, By Marq Mitcham
University of Arkansas at Monticello women’s basketball coach Chris Ratcliff has been searching for a point guard for four years. Ironically, Ratcliff is convinced he found the answer to his team’s most pressing need in his own back yard with a player he has never seen play.
Prairie View point guard Caroline Oliphant signed with the Cotton Blossoms on Thursday morning in the gym where she established herself as the school’s all-time career scoring and assists leader. In five years as a starter, Oliphant led the Lady Spartans to a 142-34 record (.807 winning percentage) while putting up 3,047 career points and handing out 1,117 assists. Despite all of her success on and off the court — she’s a 4.0 student with a 25 ACT score — the recruiting process dragged on for Oliphant. Scholarship offers simply don’t pour in for 5-4 basketball players. Louisiana College, Mississippi College, Loyola (New Orleans) and Delta State all showed interest, but for one reason or another things didn’t pan out. Until late last week, Oliphant appeared to be on her way to ULM as a walk-on. Oliphant’s luck began to change through a chance conversation between ULM head coach Mona Martin and Ratcliff, who doubles as UAM’s athletic director.“ Mona spoke so highly of Caroline,” Ratcliff said. “After talking to Mona, I called a few coaching friends of mine and they all said the same thing.” Ratcliff then called Prairie View coach Dave Farrell to arrange an on-campus visit with Oliphant, who visited the school on Saturday and agreed to sign on Monday. “Chris told me he’s been needing a point guard for four years,” Farrell said. “I said, ‘You have one now.’” Though it took a little longer than she would have liked, Oliphant was pleased with the end result. “I was starting to get a little worried,” Oliphant admitted. “I was getting some offers, but they were all D-3, non-scholarship deals. But I’m happy with the way it worked out. UAM’s small enough, but big enough; far enough from home, but close enough.” Oliphant wasn’t the only one who was happy with the way the scenario ultimately turned out. “This is such a tailor-made situation for Caroline,” Farrell said. “I don’t know if she can start, but she can play right away. When you add it all up, it’s a great situation that just took a little while to come about. “This is why I do this — seeing young people make the most of themselves and being successful.” Added Ratcliff: “We got a big-time steal. If Caroline was two or three inches taller, she would be playing at a big D-1 school. That’s just the nature of this business.” Ratcliff feels fortunate that the nature of the business worked in his favor this time. “We’ve won a lot of games, but the one thing we haven’t had is a point guard who can be a floor general,” Ratcliff said. “I’m looking for the kid who is tough as nails and refuses to lose. Caroline fits that mold. “Caroline brings a passer’s mentality with a scorer’s touch.” Of course, Oliphant’s academic record did not escape Ratcliff’s attention. She plans to major in exercise science at UAM. “Caroline and I really hit it off when she made her visit,” Ratcliff said. “She’s going to help us win games and she’ll graduate. Caroline’s the definition of a student-athlete. “We have a 3.0 team GPA and Caroline’s going to help that. I can’t tell you how happy I am that Caroline has signed with the UAM Cotton Blossoms.” During her high school career, Oliphant was a two-time All-State selection and a five-time All-District honoree. As a senior, Oliphant averaged 22.5 points per game, while shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from 3-point range en route to earning her third straight District MVP award. She also chipped in 4.6 steals, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game, while blocking 18 shots. Prior to arriving at Prairie View, Oliphant attended Beekman Elementary and Junior High, where she broke into the starting lineup for the junior high team as a fourth grader. Oliphant was also a standout softball player for the Lady Spartans. A five-year starter at third base, she was a two-time All-State selection and helped Prairie View to its first fastpitch state championship as a senior. Oliphant played in the MAIS All-Star Game in both sports.
(Photo at top) Pictured clockwise from top left are PVA Principal and softball coach Ed Bain, PVA girls basketball coach Dave Farrell, Caroline Oliphant and Kristen Oliphant, the signee’s sister.