Hey everybody, hope this edition of the "Mailbag" finds you doing well.  Practice started officially on Friday and as of today (Tuesday, Oct. 17) we are just two weeks from our first exhibition game on Halloween night.  Hard to believe!  Our players and coaches are working extremely hard and we're all very excited to see you at Lloyd Noble Center this year.

I want to thank you all very much for the questions that keep rolling in.  I wish I could answer all of them.  Everyone associated with our program appreciates the great interest.  To submit a question, CLICK HERE.

Now, to the "Mailbag!"
 
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From: Gary Wardworth (Edmond, OK)

Question: At times last year Taylor Griffin looked like a big-time player.  What can we realistically expect from Taylor this year and what do you expect from him?

Answer: Hi Gary, and thanks for the question.  We want Taylor to be the best player he can be.  He is a talented young man.  Hopefully people understand that Taylor and Longar Longar were playing behind two really, really good post guys last year in Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray.  And hopefully people appreciate what Kevin and Taj did during their careers here at OU.  I certainly wish I had an opportunity to coach them and I know Coach Sampson really relishes the opportunity he had with them. 

But anyway, you really haven't seen all the things Taylor can do.  In my mind he's still green - he doesn't have a lot of game experience.  So hopefully he will be consistent this year, consistently good.  That will come with more experience and he's going to get that this year.  Taylor Griffin's going to play for us and I think he'll have a very good year.  He's as strong a guy as we have in our program, he's very athletic and powerful. 

I want him to concentrate on being a great defender.  And I think it's going to be imperative for him to be a really good rebounder for us and for him to be able to run the floor.  If he does those things, he'll score.  He can shoot the basketball and hopefully he'll become even more consistent with that.  And he'll continue to get better with his back to the basket.  We expect good things from Taylor this year.

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From: Craig Anderson (Richmond, VA)

Q: First, I want to say to you Coach that you will be missed here in Richmond.  You did a wonderful job turning our Rams around.  My question is this: How do you feel about being on the next level?  I mean, do you feel that you can do the same for Oklahoma or is it a little added pressure being on the next level of basketball?

A: First of all, Craig, I miss the people of Richmond and VCU, too.  I really miss my former players and I keep in contact with those guys.  They instant message me, they e-mail me and some of them still call.  VCU was and always will be a special place for me.  My wife and I were married during my time there and we met some really incredible people.  Having said that, VCU has a great coach now in Anthony Grant and he's going to do a tremendous job.  I'm really happy for him. 

As far as your question goes, I don't think people really realize how good the Colonial Athletic Association is.  Obviously, the CAA had a great run last year with the success of George Mason.  But then you look at UNC Wilmington, who won the conference tournament and played a great game against George Washington in the NCAAs (they were up 18 and lost in double overtime).  You look at Old Dominion, who went to the final four of the NIT.  You look at Hofstra, who should have been an NCAA Tournament team and wound up losing to Old Dominion in the NIT quarterfinals.  And you look at VCU.  We were the highest ranked team that didn't get a postseason invitation.  We felt like we were overlooked for the NIT.  So I don't think people realize how good that league is and it should be fantastic again this year.

As far as me feeling extra pressure or nervous here at OU, I've never really felt that way coaching.  My time at VCU prepared me for this.  I was only 27 years old when I was named head coach there with only two years of coaching experience, period.  I remember my first game at Western Kentucky (now I was really nervous for that one) and how we almost won.  We were up 10 with about seven minutes to go. 

With the Big 12 being one of the premier conferences in the country, I'm honored to be a part of this league and to be associated with its great coaches and tradition.  But I say to people - and it's no disrespect to anybody in this league - Jim Larranaga is a heck of a coach.  Bruiser Flint at Drexel is a heck of a coach.  Blaine Taylor at Old Dominion is a heck of a coach.  So night in and night out, just like in the Big 12, you've got some battles on your hands.

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From: Amy (Norman, OK)

Q: Who are some of the people who have influenced you the most both personally and professionally?

A: Good question, Amy.  My mom and dad were always role models and examples.  My dad was an example of what a man, what a father, what a dad should be.  My mom has always been the backbone of our family.  She's the one who was there a lot and allowed my dad to pursue his dream of being a coach. 

I've been very fortunate to have great men in my life.  My maternal grandfather, Paige Saunders, was a college football coach, college professor and also coached tennis.  He's a great example of what a man should be.  My dad's father, Felton Capel Sr., who I'm named after, has impacted a lot of peoples' lives and has done a lot of things for minorities and especially African-Americans in North Carolina.

My high school coach, Ron Miller, was a great inspiration and a great voice, a great resource, a great friend.  And there's my college coach, Coach K.  The relationship that I was able to develop, and still maintain - I treasure it, I value it.  It's something that means the world to me.

And I can't forget about some of my other coaches that I had throughout my career.  The assistants at Duke - Tommy Amaker, Mike Brey, Quin Snyder, Tim O'Toole.  Then of course there are my former teammates.  I could go on and on with those names.

But the person who has really inspired me - really and truly - is my wife, and her family.  My wife is the smartest person I know, and not just because she married me (just kidding about the part after the comma).  She's just a really, really smart person and just a really cool woman.  And her family is incredible, her mom and dad with the way they support each other.  Our families are similar and I think that's why we all get along so well.

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From: Scott Cloud (Tonkawa, OK)

Q: My question is about offense.  With the current group of players on the roster, will you be looking to play a lot of 4-out motion or more of a 3-out, 2-in style?  Also, do you like to run a lot of set plays or do you like continuity offense?  Thanks and good luck.  I'll be there to cheer you on.

A: Appreciate it, Scott.  I've always basically played a 4-around-1 motion.  That 1 is the guy that's a post, but sometimes he's not a post guy.  Sometimes we have our post guys on the perimeter.  We've got post players who can shoot the ball from the perimeter and are comfortable there.  I've always had bigger guards, especially on the wings, who have been able to post.  And even if we have a post out on the perimeter who maybe doesn't shoot well, the defense probably won't guard him out there and that allows him to become a free ball screener.  He can help us generate scoring opportunities that way.

This year, we will adapt to the personnel that we have.  Right now, I'd say it will most likely be a 4-around-1 motion.  We do run some sets.  Sometimes our sets will get us into our motion.  Most of our sets give us several different options to score.  Everything is based on reads.  If we don't get anything out of a set, we'll go right into our motion or end-of-clock play that we may run.

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From: Charlie Hamilton (Tahlequah, OK)

Q: Coach, first of all welcome to OU.  My question is this: With high school kids bypassing college entirely or at least foregoing some years, all things being equal, would you sign a kid who wants to stay four years over one that tells you flat out he's leaving early?

A: Thanks for writing, Charlie.  To answer your question, we want to sign the best guys we possibly can.  If the kid came out and told us flat out that he's leaving early, that may change the way we feel about him and what we do.  I want guys who will come here and unpack their bags.  I don't ever want a kid who comes here, only has one foot in the door and only unpacks his toothbrush.  I think we have such a great product here at the University of Oklahoma and we want our kids to be entrenched in the University culture, not just our basketball program.  We also don't want to get into a situation where someone is just using us.  We're hoping they use us to receive a great education, we want them to use us so they can become better - as people, as athletes, everything.

Now, in saying that, we hope that we recruit guys who have the opportunity to leave early.  Because that means we're pretty good and we're recruiting pretty good players.  And we expect to.  We expect, with the future of our program, to have some guys who aren't here for four years.  And I'm okay with that.  My thing is doing what's best for them.  If it's a situation where we feel it would benefit them greatly, then I would be all for it. 

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From: Joel Maldonado (Junction City, KS)

Q: Hi from Jayhawk Country where this Sooner proudly waves the Sooner flag.  As a coach, how long does it take you to get over a heartbreaking loss?

A: Seems like it takes forever, Joel.  I remember a loss I had my senior year of high school.  I remember my first year of high school basketball, losing in the state playoffs.  I remember all losses.

I think it's more difficult getting over losses as a coach because you're constantly trying to figure out what you could have done better, how you could have prepared your team better, and different things like that.  But you have to get over it, because you have to move to the next game.  If you let it totally encompass all of your thoughts, it will affect you for the next game.  As a coach, I owe that to my players - move on to the next play.  I always tell my players that.  I don't want our guys thinking about a mistake if they make one.  We have to have a clear mind and move on to the next play.

So, I remember losses but I try to use them as motivation and to help us prepare a little bit better.  Sometimes you have a heartbreaking loss where someone hits a half court shot.  It's tough, but the great thing about it is you have another game coming up.

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Okay, everybody.  Thanks again for writing.  See you on Oct. 31 for our exhibition game against Oklahoma Christian.  If you still need tickets, we've got some great season and mini-season packages still available.  Call our ticket office at (800) 456-4668 or (405) 325-2424 to order.

Boomer Sooner,
Coach Capel