Men's Basketball Holds Practice No. 1

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

Oct. 17, 2008

NORMAN, Okla. - Jeff Capel's Oklahoma men's basketball team ushered in the 2008-09 season with its first official practice Friday night at Lloyd Noble Center.

Practicing for nearly three hours, the Sooners spent the majority of the evening focusing on defense and transition offense.

"I thought it was a very good first practice" said Capel, who is beginning his third year in Norman.  "The guys brought great energy to the floor and worked hard.  Our goal is to get better as a team with every practice.  We did that tonight."

All 14 players practiced, but junior forward Juan Pattillo was held out of the contact portion of the workout.  He is recovering from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and has not yet been cleared to return to full action.

The Sooners, who were picked to win the Big 12 Conference last week by league coaches and open the exhibition season Nov. 5, are scheduled to practice again Saturday.

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Freshman guard Ray Willis is back on the court after missing more than a month of workouts due to chest and abdominal injuries he sustained during an August off-the-court incident.  He was issued full clearance by OU's medical staff two weeks ago and said he is trying to catch up to his teammates.

"I'm just trying to get back in shape, really," said Willis, who was rated as the No. 61 player in the 2008 recruiting class by  "Everybody's in better shape than I am and I get winded in some of the drills.  Other than that, I'm good.  Just trying to get my rhythm back. 

"Practice isn't quite like pick-up games in the summer," he added.  "This is a whole other level of intensity.  Everybody here can play.  That means you have to do all of the little things.  If you don't, you get exposed."

OU's second McDonald's All-American in two years, freshman guard Willie Warren said his first official collegiate practice wasn't that much different than the two one-hour workouts a week the Sooners held for the past month.

"The main difference tonight was that we were able to go for a longer period of time.  That meant if we messed up, the coaches could stop practice and correct us and talk about things."

Warren said he thinks he's handling the adjustment to college basketball well, but admits it isn't a cakewalk.

"The biggest transition for me is the intensity every day and the fact there are a lot more plays," he said.  "I'm going to have to really pay attention."

Junior forward Ryan Wright practiced with the Sooners during the 2007-08 season following his transfer from UCLA, but was not allowed to participate in games.  Now that he's eligible to play this season, he says he's noticed a change in his practice approach.

"It's definitely a different feeling," said Wright, who is originally from Mississauga, Ontario.  "Last year my job was just to work on my game and make other players on the team work hard every day in practice.  Now, I have to focus on every little detail.  If I'm not in the right place to screen or if I don't cut at the right time, Coach will get on me.  I have to pay attention to everything we do on offense and defense -- everything our team has to do to be successful in games.  I'm not just on scout team anymore."

Fans will notice two 3-point lines on the Lloyd Noble Center court this season.  That's because the line for the men (white in color at LNC) has been extended by a foot to 20 feet, nine inches.  The crimson women's 3-point line remains at 19 feet, nine inches.

Sophomore guard Cade Davis claims he doesn't think the new line will have much of an effect on shooters.

"I don't think it will make for a huge transition for most perimeter players," said Davis, who was one of OU's better 3-point shooters at the end of last season.  "Guys can pretty much shoot from the new line, or even farther out.  Every now and then you'll take a glance to make sure you're a half a step farther back than you're used to being, but otherwise it hasn't been that tough of an adjustment."

Davis added he's a fan of the new line and that he expects it to benefit the game.

"It'll bring defenders out farther on the perimeter and give post players more room to play.  It will also open up more lanes for perimeter guys to drive and try to break their down their defender.  That's good, to spread the floor out so it's not so congested inside."