Nov. 12, 1999

NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma plays its second and final exhibition game of the season against Athletes First 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). Mark Mathew (play-by-play) and Bob Barry, Jr., (analyst) will call the action. The first 1,000 OU students who present a valid student ID will be admitted free of charge.

About the Opponent
Athletes First sports a 1-5 record so far this month. The team notched its lone win versus Oral Roberts on Tuesday, 72-66. Losses have come to Arkansas State (95-85), Wichita State (80-61), Texas-Arlington (96-77), Oklahoma State (93-80) and Stephen F. Austin (89-85). The squad is coached by Gary Vick.

Three former Sooners will return to Norman Saturday as members of Athletes First. Back to compete at Lloyd Noble Center will be forward Lou Moore (played during the 1996-97 season), center James Mayden (1993-94, '94-95) and guard Bryatt Vann (1991-92, '92-93). Both Moore and Mayden played under Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. Vann led the Sooners in scoring as a senior, averaging 16.9 points per game.

Oklahoma Update
The Sooners opened the season with a 103-48 triumph over El Basquetbol Mexicano last Saturday. Eduardo Najera produced a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds to lead Oklahoma to the 53-point win.

OU is coming off a 22-11 campaign that saw it 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).

Oklahoma Player Personnel

PROBABLE STARTERSNOTES
F5Nolan Johnson (6-4, 215, Jr.)Second-team JUCO All-American in 1997-98
F21Eduardo Najera (6-8, 240, Sr.)Preseason All-American
C33Renzi Stone (6-10, 250, Sr.)Started 18 games last season
G11J.R. Raymond (6-2, 175, So.)Practiced with team last year as partial qualifier
G14Tim Heskett (6-1, 185, Jr.)OU's career leader in 3-pt. percentage (.422)

RESERVESNOTES
G3Michael Cano (6-1, 170, So.)Joined team last year as a walk-on
G10Hollis Price (6-1, 165, Fr.)Consensus top-50 high school recruit
G20Kelley Newton (6-2, 190, Jr.)Redshirted last year after tearing ACL
C22Oleg Reztsov (7-2, 230, Sr.)Tallest player in school history
G30Jarrett Hart (6-3, 210, Fr.)First-team Arkansas All-State selection
C32Victor Avila (6-10, 255, Sr.)Averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds last year
F34Jameel Heywood (6-6, 225, Jr.)Transferred from Coffeyville (Kan.) CC

Exhibiting Success
The Sooners have compiled an impressive exhibition record over the last 12 years. With its 103-48 victory over El Basquetbol Mexicano last Saturday, OU has won its opening exhibition game the past 12 seasons and now owns a 24-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.

Recapping the First Exhibition
Eduardo Najera scored a game-high 18 points and added eight rebounds, three assists and four steals in 26 minutes of action as the Sooners manhandled El Basquetbol Mexicano, 103-48, last Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center in front of a paid crowd of 9,283. Oklahoma raced to 10-0 and 22-3 leads before heading to the locker room with a 48-12 halftime advantage. Mexico shot a mere .174 in the opening 20 minutes compared to OU's .553 mark. Junior college transfer Nolan Johnson contributed 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and a game-high nine boards in 19 minutes. First-year point guards J.R. Raymond and Hollis Price scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, and shared game-high honors in assists with five. Tim Heskett was the team's fifth player who scored in double figures (11 points). Senior reserve center and fan favorite Oleg Reztsov, who scored two points all of last season, netted four points and grabbed a pair of boards in five minutes of play. All told, OU's six newcomers accounted for 58 points and 24 rebounds.

Head Coach Kelvin Sampson
Now in his 17th year as a collegiate head coach, Kelvin Sampson is in his sixth year at the Oklahoma helm. He has averaged 20.6 wins per season at OU and is one of two Big 12 coaches -- Kansas' Roy Williams is the other -- to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament each of the last five seasons.

Sampson began his head coaching career in 1980 at Montana Tech when he was hired as the program's interim head coach. He recorded a 73-45 mark in four seasons and was inducted into the school's sports hall of fame two years ago.

In 1988, Sampson was named head coach at Washington State and compiled an even 103-103 record over seven years, including two 20-win campaigns.

Hired by Oklahoma on April 25, 1994, he has guided the Sooners to a 103-55 (.652) record and a 62-13 (.827) home mark. In 1997-98, OU finished tied for second place in the Big 12 Conference and played in the league's postseason tournament championship game. Last year, he directed OU to another second-place league finish and an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance.

Sampson was named the 1995 national coach of the year by the Associated Press, the USBWA and Basketball Times.

Sampson year by Year

YearSchoolRecord (Pct.)
1981-82Montana Tech7-20 (.259)
1982-83Montana Tech22-9 (.710)
1983-84Montana Tech22-7 (.759)
1984-85Montana Tech22-9 (.710)
1987-88Washington State13-16 (.448)
1988-89Washington State10-19 (.345)
1989-90Washington State7-22 (.241)
1990-91Washington State16-12 (.571)
1991-92Washington State22-11 (.667)
1992-93Washington State15-12 (.556)
1993-94Washington State20-11 (.645)
1994-95Oklahoma23-9 (.719)
1995-96Oklahoma17-13 (.567)
1996-97Oklahoma19-11 (.633)
1997-98Oklahoma22-11 (.667)
1998-99Oklahoma22-11 (.667)
Totals279-203 (.579)

Preseason Predictions
In the annual preseason Big 12 media poll released Nov. 2, 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 (1st-place votes)Points
1.Kansas (17)327
2.Texas (8)318
3.Oklahoma State (4)298
4.Oklahoma252
5.Missouri232
6.Nebraska172
7.Iowa State169
8.Colorado143
9.Texas Tech132
10.Kansas State108
11.Texas A&M70
12.Baylor41

Coaches Poll

Team (first-place votes)Points
1.Kansas (6)116
2.Texas (5)113
3.Oklahoma State (1)103
4.Oklahoma89
5.Missouri84
6.Iowa State55
7.Nebraska54
8.Colorado50
9.Texas Tech47
10.Kansas State42
11.Texas A&M23
12.Baylor16

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

PublicationOU's Nat'l Ranking
Basketball News12
College Hoops Insider17
Blue Ribbon Yearbook20
Playboy25
The Sporting News28
Street & Smith's32
Lindy's34

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, 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.

Sooners Ink Four Standouts
Head Coach Kelvin Sampson announced Wednesday that four players have signed national letters of intent to attend Oklahoma next year. Expected to join the Sooner program are prep players Johnnie Gilbert and James Wright, and junior college players Aaron McGhee and Daryan Selvy.

Recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said, "This class will be ranked no lower than 15th nationally. And it should wind up being a top-10 class."

A third-team All-State performer last year at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Minn., Gilbert, 6-7 and 220 pounds, averaged 14.5 points, 14.3 rebounds and 6.0 blocked shots per outing while leading his squad to a 21-4 record and an appearance in the state championship quarterfinals. This preseason, Patrick Henry is ranked No. 1 in Minnesota's 4A class. Gibbons rates Gilbert as the nation's 88th-best senior.

A very athletic wing player, Wright is the Wisconsin state record holder in the high jump. He averaged 10.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocked shots as a senior last year at Vincent High School in Milwaukee, Wis. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, Wright experienced tremendous success in his four years at Vincent, helping his teams to state titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and a four-year 97-10 record. Following his junior season, Vincent was ranked seventh nationally by Street & Smith's and ninth nationally by USA Today. This year, Wright is attending The Winchendon (prep) School in Winchendon, Mass. According to Gibbons, he is one of the 10 best post-graduate prep players in the country.

The 6-8, 250-pound McGhee, who hails from Aurora, Ill., was regarded as one of the 50 best players in the nation his senior year at Aurora East High School where he was a two-time All-State selection. As a senior, he earned honorable mention All-America honors from USA Today and The Sporting News after averaging 25.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocked shots and 2.3 steals per game. He guided East to a 24-3 record that year and went on to earn MVP honors in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association state all-star game. He originally signed with Cincinnati and sat out the 1997-98 season. Last year with the Bearcats, McGhee played in 30 games and averaged 2.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per contest. Against Southern Mississippi, the forward scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Gibbons considers him to be one of the country's top 15 junior college players.

Selvy, who attended the same high school as former first-team All-Big 12 guard Corey Brewer, is a sophomore at Carl Albert Junior College in Poteau, Okla., also the same junior college Brewer attended. Last year, Selvy averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. As a senior at West Memphis, he guided his team to a state championship. Greg Swaim of Midwest Basketball rates him as the 20th-best junior college sophomore in the nation. He stands 6-6 and weighs 215 pounds.

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:

TeamStreakNCAANIT Started
North Carolina332941966-67
Georgetown252051974-75
Indiana222021977-78
Oklahoma181441981-82

AP Poll (Nov. 8)
(First-place votes in parentheses)

SchoolRecordPoints
1.Connecticut (21)34-21,669
2.Cincinnati (19)27-61,630
3.Michigan State (20)33-51,607
4.Auburn (4)29-41,567
5.Ohio State (3)27-91,432
6.North Carolina (3)24-101,421
7.Temple (2)24-111,381
8.Florida22-91,341
9.Arizona22-71,241
10.Duke37-21,034
11.Kansas23-10994
12.UCLA22-9890
13.Stanford26-7752
14.Kentucky28-9747
15.Utah28-5699
16.Illinois14-18688
17.Syracuse21-12660
18.St. John's28-9657
19.Tennessee21-9531
20.DePaul18-13452
21.Texas19-13348
22.Oklahoma State23-11257
23.Purdue21-13252
24.Gonzaga28-7227
25.Miami (Fla.)23-7222
28.Oklahoma22-1163

ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (Nov. 4)
(First-place votes in parentheses)

SchoolRecordPoints
1.Connecticut (9)34-2712
2.Michigan State (8)33-5688
3.Cincinnati (8)27-6684
4.Auburn29-4616
5.North Carolina (2)24-10594
6.Ohio State (2)27-9579
7.Temple (2)24-11574
8.Florida22-9570
9.Arizona22-7492
10.Duke37-2466
11.Kansas23-10381
12.Kentucky28-9361
13.Stanford26-7349
14.UCLA22-9345
15.Utah28-5283
16.Tennessee21-9277
17.Syracuse21-12276
18.Illinois14-18275
19.St. John's28-9256
20.DePaul18-13177
21.Purdue21-13171
22.Texas19-13157
23.Maryland28-6140
24.Miami (Fla.)23-7118
25.Oklahoma State23-11102
29.Oklahoma22-1131