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WOMEN'S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Krajina looking to make one last impact for Odessa College

Mar. 25—Throughout this season, Ivana Krajina has been a dominant force on the court for the Odessa College women's basketball team.

The Croatian sophomore point guard has been scoring at will for the Lady Wranglers this season, finishing almost every game as the leading scorer and helping the team to its first NJCAA Tournament appearance in five years.

It came as no surprise when she was named the Western Junior College Athletic Conference Player of the Year this season.

Krajina has led the team in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game, going 47 percent on field goals and 33.1 percent on 3-pointers.

She's been dangerous from the free throw line, making 82 percent of her shots from the stripe.

While the individual honors have been nice for her, she's mostly excited about the opportunity that awaits the Lady Wranglers as the team prepares for this week's national tournament in Casper, Wy.

The Lady Wranglers (29-4) enter the tournament as a No. 7 seed, having won a share of the WJCAC title with New Mexico Junior College and finishing runner-up in the Region V Tournament championship.

It's a far cry from where the team was a year ago when the Lady Wranglers went 16-10 last season.

"We're just so excited," Krajina said. "My freshman year was nothing like this. We didn't get the opportunity to go to nationals. This year, it feels amazing. I think our confidence as a team is rising. We expect to do a lot."

She talked about how her role on the team has changed between this year and last season.

"I think it's changed a lot," Krajina said. "Last year when I came in, I was the only point guard on the team. Just by being a point guard, that requires you to lead. I didn't do well last year, but I was thankful for my sophomores that year because they taught me a lot. They taught me how to get through it."

After last season, Krajina met with head coach Franqua Bedell last year and was told about what was expected of her from the 2023-24 season.

This year, she's been able to improve both on and off the court as a leader.

"I've been talking to my teammates and putting them in the right positions and talk them through the game," Krajina said. "We help each other a lot. I think that's what has gotten me into this position of scoring a lot. ... When I do that, I'm opening the floor for everyone else and to put them in better positions. I've been working with coach Bedell a lot and he's been letting me know where I can get better."

Krajina moved from Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina when she was 15 before she made the move to the United States to play college basketball.

Trying to adjust from the European style of play to the American style was a little challenging at first.

She had to adjust from a slower style of a play to a faster pace.

"European basketball is a lot slower," Krajina said. "It's a lot more thinking and a lot less individual attacking. It's way more of a team play. When I came here, the pace was way faster. You need to think faster. You need to do everything faster which I kind of struggled with in the beginning but I've done a good job of adjusting. There are some rules that are different that I struggled with."

After making the adjustments, there's been no looking back as Krajina and her teammates have helped restore Odessa College to being a national contender at the junior college basketball stage.

While this is her last season in an OC uniform, she's not thinking too much about where she'll transfer to just yet.

She knows there's still a championship to play for.

"It's win or go home," Krajina said. "There's not a lot to think about. It's show up, give your best and make sure you stay there as long as you can. Our goal is to come back with a trophy."

She's earned the praise from Bedell.

"She has been a great team player," Bedell said. "She works her tail off. She's in this gym practicing all the time, working on her craft. She's the heartbeat and has truly helped cement the culture of where we're at and that's just a testament to who she is as a person and how hard she works to be the best version of herself. We wouldn't be here without her and we wouldn't be here without all the other players."

Odessa College received a first-round bye in the tournament and will face the winner of Eastern Florida State and North Dakota SCS in the second round at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday.