Nov. 25, 1999
Oklahoma hosts its second annual Sooner Holiday Classic this Friday and Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center. The tournament begins at 6 p.m. Friday when UC Irvine faces Southwest Texas. Oklahoma will take on San Diego 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game. The consolation game will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday and will be followed by the championship contest. Oklahoma's games 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. Saturday's championship contest will be televised locally by the Sooner Sports Network (NewsNow 53 in Oklahoma City). Ed Murray (play-by-play) and Charlie Spoonhour (analyst) will announce.
Oklahoma Update - Sooners Roll in Alaska
Oklahoma returns home from a long but successful trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, where it captured the Top of the World Classic championship over the weekend. Tournament MVP Eduardo Najera and all-tournament team member J.R. Raymond carried the squad to victories over Montana State (91-76), George Washington (73-54) and California (75-58) by averaging 20.3 and 19.3 points per game, respectively. Najera also averaged 8.7 rebounds per contest and shot .500 from the field, while Raymond averaged 4.3 assists per game and shot .550 (11-for-20) from three-point range.
The Sooners shot an impressive .509 from the field during the three games and posted a .484 mark (30-for-62) from beyond the arc. OU also shot a remarkable .849 from the free throw line, sinking 45 of its final 49 attempts of the tournament. A mild concern for Oklahoma prior to the season, rebounding also turned out to be a strength as the Sooners outboarded each of their foes. OU grabbed 35.3 caroms per game to its opponents' 27.7 per outing.
OKLAHOMA PROBABLE STARTERS PPG RPG APG F 5 Nolan Johnson (6-4, 215, Jr.) 10.3 5.3 1.3 F 21 Eduardo Najera (6-8, 240, Sr.) 20.3 8.7 1.3 C 33 Renzi Stone (6-10, 250, Sr.) 2.7 3.0 2.0 G 11 J.R. Raymond (6-2, 175, So.) 19.3 5.0 4.3 G 14 Tim Heskett (6-1, 185, Jr.) 11.3 2.0 2.3
SAN DIEGO PROBABLE STARTERS PPG RPG APG F 15 Cameron Rigby (6-7, 235, Jr.) 13.0 9.0 2.0 F/C 40 Tyler Field (6-9, 245, So.) 10.5 7.0 1.0 G 4 Dana White (6-0, 175, So.) 13.5 4.0 4.0 G 12 Andre Laws (6-1, 180, So.) 11.0 6.0 3.0 G 14 Matt Delzell (6-2, 180, Fr.) 13.0 0.5 2.0
About the Teams
San Diego, OU's opponent Friday night, heads into the weekend with a 2-0 record. The Toreros picked up a season-opening victory at fellow Sooner Holiday Classic participant UC Irvine Nov. 19 in a game that saw junior point guard Dana White score a career-high 23 points. The Toreros followed that performance with an 81-77 victory at Cal State Fullerton Tuesday as junior forward Cameron Rigby scored 18 points and hauled in nine rebounds. Last season, San Diego finished 18-9 overall and tied for second in the West Coast Conference with a 9-5 record. Included in the team's win total were victories over Texas and 25th-ranked Gonzaga. Head Coach Brad Holland is in his sixth year at San Diego where he owns a 76-64 record (.543). Holland is 99-95 (.510) in his eighth season of head coaching.
UC Irvine stands at 0-1 after its season-opening 75-62 home loss to San Diego Nov. 19. The Anteaters received 18 points, five rebounds and three assists from sophomore point guard Jerry Green, as well as 17 points and 12 boards from senior forward Marek Ondera. UC Irvine outrebounded San Diego by three boards, but shot just .381 from the field. A year ago, the Anteaters finished 6-20 overall and 2-14 in the Big West. Pat Douglass, in his third season at UC Irvine, sports a 15-39 (.278) record at the school and is 391-157 (.714) in his 19th year as a collegiate head coach.
Southwest Texas enters the tournament with a 1-0 record after defeating Colorado Christian by a 91-66 score at home Monday. Sophomore Jason Blair recorded game highs in points (25) and rebounds (eight) in just 24 minutes of action. The forward converted 11-of-13 shots and helped the Bobcats to a .574 field goal performance. Last year, Southwest Texas finished 19-9 overall and won the regular season Southland Conference title with a 13-5 mark. Mike Miller is in his sixth year as Bobcat head coach and owns a 76-62 (.551) record.
Raymond, Other Newcomers Play Big Role
First-year Sooners made quite an impact in Fairbanks, Alaska, last weekend as they accounted for 55 percent of OU's points, 45 percent of its rebounds and 52 percent of the team's minutes played. Leading the way was sophomore J.R. Raymond. The point guard, who practiced last year while sitting out as a partial qualifier, scored 29 points in his first-ever game. It was the highest scoring output by a Sooner since Corey Brewer tickled the twine for 36 against Missouri on Feb. 21, 1998 -- a span of 40 games. The output also tied a Top of the World Classic single-game record. Raymond, whose dribbling penetration skills were not showcased by any Sooner last year, added six rebounds and five assists against Montana State in OU's opener before registering 17 and 12 points versus George Washington and California, respectively.
Starting wing Nolan Johnson averaged 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds during the tournament. Against Cal in the title game, the junior college transfer scored 14 points and notched seven boards and four assists. Jameel Heywood, another junior college transfer, averaged 4.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in 13.7 minutes per game and provided huge sparks for OU against Montana State and California.
Junior guard Kelley Newton, a redshirt last year, nailed his first five three-point attempts of the tournament and ended up averaging 7.0 points per game off the bench. Freshman backcourt mate Hollis Price got his first taste of college basketball, averaging 3.3 points in 10.7 minutes per contest. He played an instrumental role in helping OU pull away from Cal in the second half of the championship game. Jarrett Hart, the Sooners' other freshman guard, played eight minutes and registered a rebound.
Back on Track at the Line
In its first four seasons under Kelvin Sampson, Oklahoma never shot worse than .701 from the free throw line. The Sooners won the conference free throw shooting title in 1995-96 (.708) and finished second in 1994-95 (.744), 1996-97 (.724) and 1997-98 (.701). Last year, however, OU shot just .651 from the charity stripe to rank ninth in the Big 12.
Last season's figure appears it may have just been an aberration, as the Sooners are off to a torrid start from the foul line this year. In three games in Alaska, OU made 45 of 53 attempts for an .849 figure. Discounting the team's first four attempts (all misses), Oklahoma made 45 of its last 49 tries (.918).
Three-Point Shooting Success Continues
Oklahoma, which ranked second in the Big 12 last year with a .388 three-point shooting mark, picked up where it left off by posting a stout .484 figure at the Top of the World Classic. The Sooners made 12-of-18 (.667) versus Montana State, 10-of-21 (.476) against George Washington and 8-of-23 (.348) versus California.
Sophomore J.R. Raymond led the attack by draining 11-of-20 (.550) attempts while junior Tim Heskett was close behind with his 10-for-21 (.476) effort. Junior Kelley Newton sank 6-of-10 (.600) long-range tries, including his first five.
The Sooners finished the tournament with 10.0 three-point makes per outing. For perspective, Oklahoma led the Big 12, ranked ninth nationally and set a school record with 8.6 conversions per game last year.
OU Wins Board Battles
An admitted concern of Head Coach Kelvin Sampson entering the season, rebounding turned out to be a strength at the Top of the World Classic. Oklahoma outboarded each of its three foes, by an average margin of 7.7 caroms per outing. Senior Eduardo Najera grabbed game highs in rebounds in each contest and averaged 8.7 over the three games. A pair of guards, Nolan Johnson and J.R. Raymond, were the team's second and third-leading rebounders, averaging 5.3 and 5.0 boards, respectively.
Najera Starts Strong, Climbs OU Charts Preseason All-American Eduardo Najera showed his worth at the Top of the World Classic, averaging 20.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 blocked shots and 1.7 steals per game en route to being named tournament MVP. The senior forward also averaged 35.3 minutes per outing and shot .500 (26-52) from the field and .875 (7-for-8) from the free throw line.
The Chihuahua, Mexico, native entered the season ranked 29th in OU career scoring and 15th in career rebounding, but now ranks 27th (1,082 points) and 14th (622 rebounds), respectively. If he scores 18 points against San Diego Friday, Najera will pass Joe King (stands 26th) and Damon Patterson (25th) on the scoring chart. A 23-point performance against the Toreros will vault him past Terry Stotts into 24th place.
Sampson Starts 3-0 for Fifth Time in Six Seasons
For the fifth time in six seasons as OU's head coach, Kelvin Sampson has started the year with three straight victories. The 1995-96 campaign, Sampson's second, marked the only time OU did not win its first three games of the season (lost at Georgia Tech in second game). The Sooners' best starts were 7-0 performances in the 1994-95 and the 1996-97 seasons.
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 106-55 (.658) 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
Year School Record (Pct.) 1981-82 Montana Tech 7-20 (.259) 1982-83 Montana Tech 22-9 (.710) 1983-84 Montana Tech 22-7 (.759) 1984-85 Montana Tech 22-9 (.710) 1987-88 Washington State 13-16 (.448) 1988-89 Washington State 10-19 (.345) 1989-90 Washington State 7-22 (.241) 1990-91 Washington State 16-12 (.571) 1991-92 Washington State 22-11 (.667) 1992-93 Washington State 15-12 (.556) 1993-94 Washington State 20-11 (.645) 1994-95 Oklahoma 23-9 (.719) 1995-96 Oklahoma 17-13 (.567) 1996-97 Oklahoma 19-11 (.633) 1997-98 Oklahoma 22-11 (.667) 1998-99 Oklahoma 22-11 (.667) 1999-00 Oklahoma 3-0 (1.000)Sooners Ink Four Standouts
Totals 282-203 (.581)
Head Coach Kelvin Sampson announced Nov. 10 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.
An 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 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. Selvy stands 6-6 and weighs 215 pounds.
Model of Consistency
Oklahoma has registered a winning record in 22 of its last 23 seasons. No other Big 12 team can boast as many winning campaigns since the 1975-76 season as the Sooners. OU has posted a 504-232 record over the span for a .685 winning percentage.
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
3 MICHAEL CANO (6-1, 170, SO., GUARD)
5 NOLAN JOHNSON (6-4, 215, JR., GUARD)
10 HOLLIS PRICE (6-1, 165, FR., GUARD)
11 J.R. RAYMOND (6-2, 175, SO., GUARD)
14 TIM HESKETT (6-1, 185, JR., GUARD)
20 KELLEY NEWTON (6-2, 190, JR., GUARD)
21 EDUARDO NAJERA (6-8, 240, SR., FORWARD)
22 OLEG REZTSOV (7-2, 230, SR., CENTER)
30 JARRETT HART (6-3, 210, FR., GUARD)
32 VICTOR AVILA (6-10, 255, SR., CENTER)
33 RENZI STONE (6-10, 250, SR., FORWARD/CENTER)
34 JAMEEL HEYWOOD (6-6, 220, JR., FORWARD)