Sooners Talk Hoops at Local Media Day

Ben Coldagelli
By Ben Coldagelli
Director of Communications

NORMAN - With only 13 days before the Oklahoma men's basketball team opens the regular season, head coach Lon Kruger and the players met with reporters during the program's local media day Monday at Lloyd Noble Center.

“It’s a great time of year," said Kruger. "It’s hard to believe it’s here already. It seems like just yesterday we were working in the summer in preparation for the foreign trip. That was a great benefit – those 10 practices, chance to travel 10-12 days together – huge for a group, especially that’s got a lot of new guys and people in different roles, and things are going well. Things have gone really well. Practices up through the first three weeks have been very good, very productive. A lot of progress."

The Sooners open their season on Wednesday, Nov. 8 with their exhibition contest against East Central at 7 p.m. CT. All tickets to the season tipoff are just $5 and the team will sign postgame autographs on the arena floor. OU kicks off the regular season at home on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. CT versus Omaha.

Here's more from OU's local media day:


On what he’s learned about his team:
“It’s a group that consistently works to get better. Individually, they’ve done a good job coming out of last year with the spring and summer and fall… As a group, there’s a desire to get a lot of better and a desire to make the progress necessary to compete in Big 12 basketball.”

On Trae Young’s development:
“Trae’s making good progress. He’s obviously a very skilled player coming out of Norman North. He’s a local guy that everyone knows. He had an outstanding career in high school, and he’s making the transition now to a different level altogether. He’ll keep getting better. He’s doing a good job and will make the necessary progress.”

On the struggle last year to find a guy to make shots consistently and if Trae Young will help:
“Trae will be able to do that really well. I thought him and Jordan Shepherd did a great job of that while we were overseas. They did a great job of creating easy bucket opportunities, whether it be in transition or drive and kick situations. Those guys have done a great job and Trae definitely has the ability to continue to do that.”

On Brady Manek:
“Brady’s a guy that has really good instincts and shoots the ball really well. He’s a good rebounder and has a good feel for things defensively. I expected him to be a really good college player. I didn’t know for sure how quickly he would be comfortable after high school making that transition. Brady has showed a quicker comfort level than we expected, especially on the trip overseas, and he’s done that in practice here the first month.”

On Christian James:
“Christian, coming out of last year like all of our team, was focused a little differently in the spring, summer, and fall with his workouts, conditioning, really every aspect. I’ve said many times I’m happy that has translated into good results for Christian, both on the overseas trip and early season practices here. I think his foundation this year is totally different than it was a year ago. I think he’ll handle things consistently better and keep showing progress.”

On Kameron McGusty:
“A lot of times the biggest jump is from freshman to sophomore year. They come in out of high school and think they have the idea of how it’s going to be like in the Big 12. He had a really good freshman year, but going through it a year I think gives him a better understanding of what lies ahead. Hopefully he’ll continue making that progress and make the natural jump.”

A full transcript of Kruger’s press conference can be found here.



On the decision to change numbers:
“It started off by watching a lot of film, Gilbert Arenas, over the last summer and I realized the effect he was scoring and I wanted to be an effective scorer and be very efficient. Also the heart of Russell Westbrook just made me want to turn into a monster.”

On the frustration of last year:
“Very, it was very frustrating. Nothing went my way most of the time. It was hard to make shots; it was tough to do anything. I think I just took the Big 12 for granted and it motivated me.”

On putting pressure on himself last year:
“I would say I put too much pressure on myself. I would say that is normal. Most people coming up to fill big shoes (are) like that. It is a process and I had to learn that the hard way.”

On the toughness of figuring out where to fit in the team:
“It is just about picking and choosing which shots on the court. Picking and choosing when you are going to score and when you are going to make a play for someone else. That’s what it is all about in college basketball.”


On last year providing motivation:
“Last year motivates me every day. It’s something I lose sleep over, I’ve lost plenty sleep over. I’m ready to get it right. Anything I can do, personally, to make sure we don’t have the same mistakes as last year I’m going to do. I see my teammates doing the same thing, too. We’re fighting, we’re working hard, this year is going to be fun.”

On his offseason improvements:
“Getting bigger, gaining weight. I shot up and maintained fifteen pounds. I’ve got in the film room and watched a lot of film and shot a lot and worked on moves. But overall, just being a better all-around player.”

On the goals of this team:
“Come around March, we’ll definitely still be playing. I see this team as the sky being the limit. If we come together and work hard like we’re supposed to, we can go where we want to go or we can have a repeat of last year if we fall. Every day is a fight with the goal in our mind of what we want. We’re going to work tirelessly until we get it.”



On the readiness to start ending big games:
“I felt like towards the end of Big 12s we took the right step. It went from blowing a lead with ten minutes left in the game to we were neck and neck and we lose in the last minute or two. I think the growth is just going to continue. We have eight or nine guys who played last year so we know what it takes and we are going to take the younger guys under our wing and show them how it is done.”

On last year’s Bedlam game:
“We definitely take that more personally. It is a rivalry game. It is Bedlam so that one hurts the most. Especially when they got the broom out. I will never forget that. They got the broom out and started sweeping the floor. It has definitely been in the back of our heads and we do not want to have that happen again. We want to be the ones with the brooms sweeping. It is one that will be marked on our calendars.”


On his role:
“I feel like my role this year will be similar to my role last year. Come in, score and get rebounds and make sure our guys are scoring the ball. Make sure everybody is rebounding and for me, to come in and block some shots.”

On his offseason development:
“Confidence. Working on my footwork and moves down low (in the post). Getting a good base to play off of.”

On what’s impressed him from the freshmen:
“I’ve been really surprised with Brady (Manek). I watched him a little bit in high school and saw that he was bigger than everyone but didn’t think that stuff would translate over as well as it did. He’s automatic from the three and doesn’t miss a lot of shots. He’s a lot more athletic than everyone thought. He turns touch passes into lobs.”

On the team’s goals:
“We’re trying to make a big impression in the Big 12. We’re trying to finish higher than they put us in preseason polls and make a run in the tournament and hopefully have a shot at winning it all if we have the opportunity.”


On the Big 12 competition:
“We know how the Big 12 is, and it’s a league that you have to come out every night and compete. We look forward to how hard our work ethic is going to have to be.”

On who’s going to surprise people:
“Christian (James), definitely. He’s building his confidence and shooting the ball really well. Honestly, everybody. We all just have a different mindset this year and we’re going to learn from our mistakes last year and learn from the experience we have.”

On the team’s mindset:
“Last year we lost a lot of guys (from the year before) but this year we have a lot of guys coming back. We still have that team bond and experience that we’re bringing back from last year. Also, we’re adding great pieces. It’s going to be great to put it all together and reach our peak.”



On the relief of finally playing college basketball:
“I wouldn’t say last year was hectic, I thought it was pretty fun. My last year of high school, to be able to experience the recruitment process like I did, I enjoyed it. Just knowing that I’m here now and to be able to play for this university is going to be fun.”

On playing overseas this summer:
“It was fun. Being able to go over there and enjoy our time overseas and playing down under was fun.”

On playing a meaningful game in just over a week:
“It’s super exciting. It’s been a long time. This offseason has felt like it has gone on forever. I’m ready to get going and start the real action now.”

On feeling the pressure of social media popularity:
“I wouldn’t consider it pressure, I don’t like that word. But all that stuff isn’t going to go anywhere. I block all of it out, I have good people around me to help me do that and just focus on playing basketball…Focusing on my game, focusing on my academics, and focusing on this team. Winning ball games is what I’m concerned about.”