#96 Oklahoma: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #96
Conference Rank: #10 Big 12 Conference
2009-10: 13-18, 4-12
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Jeff Capel (82-51 at Oklahoma, 161-92 overall)
Oklahoma only returns three players who averaged over two minutes per game. The loss of so many talented players makes one wonder what really went wrong last season, but it is time for Coach Jeff Capel to rebuild the Sooners and start fresh. A great recruiting class will help and this is still a talented team that should win more than four conference games. Yet, last year’s team should have gone 12-4, not 4-12.
Key Losses: G Tony Crocker, F Tiny Gallon, G Tommy Mason-Griffin, G Willie Warren, F Ryan Wright
With only three players of any importance returning, this group of eight newcomers will have to make an impact right away. The four frontcourt newcomers have experience, but it is in the backcourt where the real future, and hopefully present, talent resides. It all starts with New Orleans transfer Carl Blair. The 6-2 point guard will be eligible immediately after averaging 9.2 points, 3.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman last year. He only got better as the season progressed and that one year of Division I experience puts him in the lead to take over the point guard duties. Cameron Clark is the best recruit of the bunch and the 6-6 wing should find a spot in the starting lineup. He is a great athlete who can use his size to attack the basket. T.J. Taylor is a scorer first, but he can run the point if Blair is not up for the job. So can fellow combo guard Calvin Newell. Like Taylor, Newell is a scorer first, and a very prolific one at that, but somebody has to at least be a backup point guard and either Taylor or Newell should be able to handle that job.
On a team with Willie Warren, Tommy Mason-Griffin and Tony Crocker, Cade Davis was often left out of the spotlight. Now the spotlight shines brightly on the senior. Davis managed to tally 9.9 points per game last season even with all of that talent in front of him and started 27 games. This year he will have to be the leader on and off the floor. His outside shooting was streaky last season, but he has a nice shot and if he can be consistent, the rest of the team could follow. Speaking of consistent, or inconsistent, shooting, nobody fits that mold quite like Steven Pledger. The freshman started out extremely hot from beyond the arc and then went cold for a long period of time. By the end of the year Pledger was hot again. If he gets hot again and remains that way, the sophomore could find a spot in the starting lineup. However, he would also make a great shooter off the bench.
Andrew Fitzgerald is all that is left of the Oklahoma frontcourt. The 6-8, 237 pound sophomore only averaged 4.7 points and 1.9 rebounds per game during his debut campaign in Norman, but he was noticeably improving as the season progressed and Coach Capel and company hope that he continues to improve and becomes a force in the frontcourt. The rest of the frontcourt has to be filled in by newcomers like freshmen Tyler Neal and Abdul Ahmed and junior college transfers Nick Thompson and C.J. Washington.
Who to Watch:
It is Thompson and Washington who are expected to make the biggest impact this season because of their experience. Thompson is surprisingly versatile for a 6-9, 212 pound forward. He is not a great scorer and probably never will be, but he can handle the ball and find his teammates in addition to the usual rebounding and defensive duties. Washington is a more traditional big man despite being smaller than Thompson. But Washington is the type of player who can hit the glass hard and score some points in the paint.
Obviously there are a lot of questions surrounding this team, but Coach Capel has done a great job plugging the holes. The newcomers have a lot of work to do and Davis has a lot of pressure on him to be a leader, but if this group can turn into a team, they will do better than they did last year. If they can hover over the .500 mark, a postseason invite will be waiting for them; and with a young team like this, they should take it.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Carl Blair, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Cade Davis, Senior, Guard, 9.9 ppg
Cameron Clark, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
C.J. Washington, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Andrew Fitzgerald, Sophomore, Forward, 4.7 ppg
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