What are the persuasive hooks that could land transferee NiJaree Canady at Oklahoma?

Stanford's NiJaree Canady (24) pitches during a softball game between University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Stanford in the 2023 Women's College World Series
Stanford's NiJaree Canady (24) pitches during a softball game between University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and Stanford in the 2023 Women's College World Series / BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

The transfer portal window in college softball is open and buzzing with head coaches ready to pounce, and the biggest fish in that pond of talent is unquestionably Stanford First-Team All-American pitcher NiJaree Canady?

What a compelling coincidence, four-time defending national champion Oklahoma needs pitching help going forward.

Sooner head coach Patty Gasso is in reloading mode after losing 10 seniors and three transfers from her 2024 championship team, which just completed its record-setting fourth consecutive national title. Two of the 10 departing seniors are veteran pitchers Kelly Maxwell and Nicole May, who combined to win 37 games this past season with just five losses. OU also losses redshirt-freshman pitcher SJ Geurin, who saw action in 10 games this season for a total of 10.0 innings and has elected to transfer.

As outstanding a player as Canady is, she will have the attention of every top softball program in America. The world is her oyster as far as where she would like to finish out her college career. She will have two years of eligibility remaining.

In two seasons at Stanford, the hard-throwing right-hander compiled a record of 41-10 with a staggering 0.67 career ERA. This past season alone, she recorded a nation-best 337 strikeouts, 70 more than the closest challenger.

There is no question that any program would welcome Canady with open arms. But where will she ultimately land? Sooner fans would like to think that Oklahoma is the best fit for her.

The Sooners certainly have plenty of features to peak Canady's interest, but what are persuasive factors and influencers that could ultimately close the deal in favor of Oklahoma?

To begin with, Canady is from Topeka, Kansas, which is only four hours away by car, or even shorter by airplane from Topeka or Kansas City to Oklahoma City. That would allow her family to see her in action much more often than it has been able to the past two years.

Of course, the blinding flash of the obvious is she would have the opportunity to play for arguably the best head coach in Division I softball and an outstanding pitching coach in Jennifer Rocha. And a championship program that has won a record four consecutive national championships and seven overall, and appeared in the last eight Women's College World Series. The Sooners have been the last team standing in six of those WCWS appearances and finished as runner-up in another.

Canady herself has been to the WCWS with Stanford in each of the last two years, so the Sooners' success in reaching college softball's Elite Eight should be something that would weigh favorably in her decision process.

Oklahoma does lose 10 seniors, so the reigning national champs will be much younger, but the Sooners do have two outstanding freshman players returning from this past season who were major contributors to the unprecedented national championship four-peat, as week as another celebrated group of incoming freshman.

And you know Gasso will bring in additional talent and experience from the transfer portal , as she has for each of the four previous championship seasons to fill in areas of need. So there should be no reason to expect next year's Sooner softball team to experience a dramatic drop off in performance.

The Sooners could also get some recruiting help from one KJ Miller, who happens the be a student manager for the OU softball team as well as a lifetime friend of Canady's. A former manager of the USA Junior National men's fastpitch team, Miller is from Canady's hometown in Topeka. The Tulsa World reported this week that Miller actually simulated Canady in OU's preparation to face the star pitcher in the 2023 WCWS.

In the end, though, it will be Canady's decision on where she presumably wants to finish out her college career. Wherever the wheel stops in her decision process will likely be a legitimate national title contender in 2025 and perhaps beyond.

She certainly seems like an ideal fit for the Crimson and Cream.