June 15, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma head men's basketball coach Lon Kruger took time out from one of his summer camps Thursday to participate in a Big 12 media teleconference and was asked about his program as it heads into the second year under his direction. The entire transcript of Kruger's interview session is below.
OU, which finished 15-16 last year, returns 88 percent of its scoring and 81 percent of its rebounding for 2012-13. The team's top six scorers from last year are back in the fold, including seniors Steven Pledger (16.2), Romero Osby (12.9) and Andrew Fitzgerald (12.1), who each averaged double figures in scoring last season.
On the rebuilding process as it enters its second year:
"It is a process and it takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. But I think consistency is steadily improving. The passion of the players, the togetherness of the players, the recruiting classes coming in, the connection with the fans and students -- all of those things tie in to hopefully making some progress."
On the importance of year No. 2 at a program and if that's when people can expect things to take off:
"Each situation may be a little unique, but generally speaking you'd love to see significant progress in that second year as a result of those players returning having a much better idea of what needs to be done; raising their bar a little bit, being better leaders for the newer kids coming into your program. And of course the influx of that first full-time recruiting class will hopefully allow us to take a big step forward."
On the newcomers and the contributions he expects them to make:
"New guys to the squad next year: Amath M'Baye was here sitting out as a transfer last year and he is the most ready of the new group because of experience. He had two good years at Wyoming and a good year of practice under his belt here. He will do a good job for us. D.J. Bennett, a junior-college player out of Chicago originally, is a good active, athletic inside player. Then four freshmen -- Isaiah Cousins, Jelon Hornbeak, C.J. Cole and Buddy Hield -- all bring really good passion, good energy, great desire to be here. We're really excited about the enthusiasm they're going to add to the program. I think it will be interesting to see which ones emerge and which ones step up to play the various roles right from the start."
On if he was satisfied with the foundation that was set last season:
"Generally, it was a solid year. But we weren't good enough to win games that we maybe were in a position to win. There's a big difference between coming close, as we did many times, and go ahead and finishing. That's the thing we have to do now, is play much better basketball so we can finish some of those games that we were in last year. But for the most part, guys worked hard, they hung in there together, they made progress and they wanted to do better. That's a good sign."
On what Amath M'Baye brings to the program and how he improved last year while sitting out:
"Amath took good advantage of that year, just expanding his game. At Wyoming, his real strength was that mid-range, wide post-up (area); very, very good at that. He worked really hard at improving his ball-handling, his ability to make plays off the dribble, playing more on the perimeter. And still the core of his game is that good, solid wide post-up area. But I think we'll be able to expand out and he'll be more of a perimeter player, too."
On if M'Baye will start:
"He would be expected to be fully in the running to start. The good thing about that second year is that everyone comes in knowing that it's going to be wide open, the battle is going to be a little bit more competitive internally with the new guys coming in -- Amath being one of them. We really return all of our starters from last year, but could well see it being a different starting lineup from a year ago."
On the new NCAA rule allowing coaches to work with players during the summer:
"Even more importantly than working with them, perhaps, is the ability to be around them, especially the new guys coming in -- just establishing that relationship, maintaining that contact consistently throughout the summer. Because sometimes in the summer you really don't see them that often. This will give us the opportunity to do that on a more consistent basis. As important as the coaching aspect is with the basketball, also just the time you spend with them."
On OU's five-man senior class and the importance of experience:
"Experience is always important. And this group is pretty motivated. They've finished three years where we haven't been in the (NCAA) tournament, they're motivated to make a step and experience what it's like to play in the postseason. They're motivated, they've worked hard in the spring and will continue to do that in the summer and fall, and I know they very badly want to take big steps."
On reasonable goals for this year's team:
"Goals for most teams in the country are to earn a postseason bid and, more specifically, the priority being the NCAA tournament bid. And that should be a goal for this team. I think it's realistic. Again, the conference is tough, our guys know that but having that as a goal is one we will start with and hopefully make progress from there."
On the addition of West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12 Conference:
"It's great, it's great. Bob (Huggins) and Trent (Johnson) bring great experience, both have done terrific jobs. Their programs are really, really solid. With Bob, certainly West Virginia has established that, and Trent will get TCU's going certainly at that level too, no question about that. Excited to have them on board and know it makes our league only tougher."