Sooners Open With Exhibition Game Nov. 6

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
NOVEMBER 05, 1999

Nov. 5, 1999

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Game Information
Oklahoma starts its 1999-2000 campaign with a home exhibition game against El Basquetbol Mexicano Saturday at 7:05 p.m. at Lloyd Noble Center. The game will be broadcast on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOMA 1520 AM in Oklahoma City). Bob Barry, Sr., (play-by-play) and Mark Mathew (analyst) will call the action. The first 1,000 OU students who present a valid student I.D. will gain free admission.

About the Opponent
El Basquetbol Mexicano is a 10-player squad playing three games in Oklahoma this month. The team lost to Oklahoma City in the first game of its brief tour Tuesday, 97-65. Forward Daniel Macias scored a game-high 32 points on 12-of-16 field goal and 8-of-11 free throw shooting, and pulled down nine rebounds. Center David Ayala contributed 16 points and a game-high 11 boards.

The team, coached by Agustin Villa, also lost at Central Oklahoma Thursday night by a narrow 89-85 count. Forward Febo Apolo Gomez made 10-of-13 field goals and scored a game-high 22 points in a losing effort while guard Javier Zavala added 18 points.

Last season, Oklahoma faced El Basquetbol Mexicano in its second exhibition game and came away with a 94-71 victory. Mexico native Eduardo Najera scored 21 points to lead five Sooners in double figures. Tim Heskett added 19 points.

Oklahoma Player Personnel

PROBABLE STARTERS                         NOTES

F  5   Nolan Johnson (6-4, 215, Jr.)    -  Second-team JUCO All-American in 1997-98

F  21  Eduardo Najera (6-8, 240, Sr.)   -  Preseason All-American

C  33  Renzi Stone (6-10, 250, Sr.)     -  Started 18 games last season

G  11  J.R. Raymond (6-2, 175, So.)     -  Practiced with team last year as partial qualifier

G  14  Tim Heskett (6-1, 185, Jr.)      -  OU's career leader in 3-pt. percentage (.422)

RESERVES (Listed Numerically) NOTES G 3 Michael Cano (6-1, 170, So.) - Joined team last year as a walk-on G 10 Hollis Price (6-1, 165, Fr.) - Consensus top-50 high school recruit G 20 Kelley Newton (6-2, 190, Jr.) - Redshirted last year after tearing ACL C 22 Oleg Reztsov (7-2, 230, Sr.) - Tallest player in school history G 30 Jarrett Hart (6-3, 210, Fr.) - First-team Arkansas All-State selection C 32 Victor Avila (6-10, 255, Sr.) - Averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds last year F 34 Jameel Heywood (6-6, 225, Jr.) - Transferred from Coffeyville (Kan.) CC

Oklahoma Update
The Sooners are coming off a 22-11 campaign that saw them tie for second place in the Big 12 Conference (11-5 league record) and advance to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. The tournament berth was OU's fifth straight under Head Coach Kelvin Sampson.

This year's squad returns 45 percent of its scoring and 48 percent of its rebounding from last season. The team's lone returning starter is preseason All-American Eduardo Najera, a senior forward who averaged team highs in points (15.5) and rebounds (8.3) last year. OU also returns the services of senior big men Renzi Stone, Victor Avila and Oleg Reztsov, as well as junior guard Tim Heskett. Heskett is the Sooners' career leader in three-point percentage (.422) and set a school single-season record in the category last year (.473).

Junior Kelley Newton and sophomore J.R. Raymond are pair of guards who were in the program last year but did not play. Both are expected to see significant court time this season. Newton, who was expected to start last year at the 2-guard spot, tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee during an October intrasquad scrimmage and missed the entire campaign. Raymond, the team's starting point guard, sat out as a partial qualifier last year but practiced with the team until a January ankle injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

New to the squad this year are junior college transfers Jameel Heywood and Nolan Johnson, as well as freshmen Jarrett Hart and Hollis Price. All were highly regarded recruits and are expected to contribute throughout the year.

Back for his second season is guard Michael Cano. Joining the sophomore as walk-ons are freshmen James Osborne and Justin Roye.

Exhibiting Success
The Sooners have compiled an impressive exhibition record over the last 12 years. OU has won its opening exhibition game the past 11 seasons and owns a 23-game exhibition winning streak. The last time OU lost an exhibition contest was in 1986 when the USSR national team beat Billy Tubbs' Sooners, 102-74.

Preseason Predictions
In the annual preseason Big 12 media poll released Tuesday, Oklahoma was picked to finish fourth in the league race behind Kansas (first), Texas (second) and Oklahoma State. Conference coaches predicted the same finish for the four teams a few weeks ago. The preseason media polls have been fairly accurate the past three years regarding the Sooners' predicted finish. In 1996-97, OU was picked seventh and finished sixth while the 1997-98 team tied for second after being tabbed second in the poll. Last season, OU was predicted to finish in third place and ended up tying for second again. Following are this year's preseason Big 12 media and coaches polls:

Media Poll

     Team (first-place votes)  Points

 1.  Kansas (17)                 327

 2.  Texas (8)                   318

 3.  Oklahoma State (4)          298

 4.  Oklahoma                    252

 5.  Missouri                    232

 6.  Nebraska                    172

 7.  Iowa State                  169

 8.  Colorado                    143

 9.  Texas Tech                  132

10.  Kansas State                108

11.  Texas A&M                    70

12.  Baylor                       41

Coaches Poll

Team (first-place votes)       Points

 1.  Kansas (6)                  116

 2.  Texas (5)                   113

 3.  Oklahoma State (1)          103

 4.  Oklahoma                     89

 5.  Missouri                     84

 6.  Iowa State                   55

 7.  Nebraska                     54

 8.  Colorado                     50

 9.  Texas Tech                   47

10.  Kansas State                 42

11.  Texas A&M                    23

12.  Baylor                       16

More Preseason Predictions
Preseason publications have the Sooners ranked anywhere from 12th nationally (Basketball News) to 34th (Lindy's). Here's a sampling:

Publication             Nat'l Ranking

Basketball News               12

Blue Ribbon Yearbook          20

Playboy                       25

The Sporting News             28

Street & Smith's              32

Lindy's                       34

Najera Ready For Stellar Senior Season
Senior forward Eduardo Najera, one of 25 candidates to receive the 2000 John R. Wooden Award as the nation's most outstanding collegiate basketball player of the year, has been named to several preseason All-America lists. The 6-8 Mexico product already has 1,021 points to rank 29th in school history and has a legitimate chance to become one of OU's 10 all-time leading scorers. If he repeats his 266-rebound performance of a year ago, Najera will also become one of the top-five rebounders in school annals.

Last year, Najera averaged team highs in points (15.5 ppg) and rebounds (8.3 rpg), and ranked second on the squad in assists (2.2 apg), steals (1.8 spg) and blocks (0.8 bpg). He also made 51 three-pointers, 35 more than in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined.

A preseason first-team All-Big 12 selection by league coaches and media this year, Najera led Mexico to a fourth-place finish in the World University Games over the summer by averaging 20.1 points per game, the second-highest figure in the tournament.

Kelvin Sampson Quotes From Local Media Day (Nov. 3)

General comments:
"I think we're going to be a good basketball team this year at some point. I don't think it's going to be this month, but if you go back and rewind the comments that I made this time last year, I probably said the same thing. I've never gotten carried away with the month of November, and maybe even December, when it comes to college basketball. We've got to continue to grow and work."

On team's strengths:
"This team has a couple of strengths that I like so far. For one, Eduardo Najera has become more of a scoring threat. He led us in scoring last year, but the first 14 or 15 games last year we started him at the 3-spot. The last half of the season we started him at the 4-spot and I think that's his best position. What we've got to determine is who's going to be the guy to get us a key rebound other than Eduardo. Who's going to get us a key basket other than Eduardo. Who's going to establish Oklahoma basketball the way we've always played other than Eduardo, Renzi and Tim. That's where the new guys have to come in. They don't come to us like that. It's an evolution and a process getting them to that point.

"I think the depth of this team will be another strength because we have quality guards. I'm a little concerned with our depth up front. Someone needs to step up for us there and I think they will. Overall, I'm excited about this basketball team. Because of how much we've won around here, it makes it exciting to see if we can get back to that level of success."

On Kelley Newton:
"Kelley is not at the level he was at last year. He's not playing as well, but I don't think he should be playing as well. An ACL injury is serious and that surgery set him back. Last year at this time he was definitely our starting 2-guard, but he is not our starting 2-guard right now. It may be January until he's fully ready to play. It may be December, it may be around Thanksgiving, you just don't know."

On Eduardo Najera:
"We knew Eduardo was unique (when we recruited him). When we got involved with him, the school's that were calling him the most were Duke, Indiana, Oklahoma State and New Mexico, so it's not like he was a hidden gem. That was a great recruiting battle that we won. But for him to develop into this type of player is a testament to Eduardo. He's always been a kid who's cared about things. He has great pride in getting better and is a tremendous warrior. He's developed into a high-level college player."

OU Boasts Nation's Fourth-Longest Postseason Streak
Oklahoma has now made 18 consecutive postseason appearances (14 NCAA and four NIT), the fourth-longest streak among Division I programs. Only North Carolina, Georgetown and Indiana own longer postseason streaks (North Carolina and Indiana made last year's NCAA field while Georgetown competed in the NIT). The last time Oklahoma did not compete in the postseason was in 1980-81. The four longest current postseason streaks are as follows:

Team             Streak  NCAA  NIT   Started

North Carolina     33     29    4    1966-67

Georgetown         25     20    5    1974-75 

Indiana            22     20    2    1977-78

Oklahoma           18     14    4    1981-82

Media Credential Requests
All media wishing to obtain credentials on an individual-game basis must fax a request on company letterhead to Mike Houck at (405) 325-7623 at least three days in advance of the game. Due to Lloyd Noble Center's floor seating arrangement, media seating is very limited.



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