Oct. 29, 2002

The University of Oklahoma men's basketball team held its annual local media day Tuesday at Lloyd Noble Center. Following are selected quotes from head coach Kelvin Sampson and his players:

HEAD COACH KELVIN SAMPSON
On the upcoming season:

"It helps that this year we have a veteran guard group back. Our starters have been through some wars and some tough games on the road, in the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. But it's also a little bit different for us this year in that we don't have any new junior college players. Usually they come in with two years of college experience. But we've got true freshmen this year. We had players last year that were fifth-year seniors who were through every conceivable battle you can think of and now we are replacing them with freshmen. Obviously they're not going to be near as good early on. One thing about our program in the past is that each month we get better. I think we're going to be pretty good in November, but we need to continue to get better in December and as we head into conference season."

On getting the most out of his players:
"God gave every kid on our team a different ability level - some are better than others. Our job as a coaching staff is to get each kid to play as close to his ability level as possible. If you do that, then you're doing your job. You can't ask for anything more than that. If we play as good as we can possibly play and we finish as a top-20 team, I'm not going to be disappointed."

On the team's schedule:
"I was joking around with someone the other day when I was looking at a top-25 poll and I said, 'That looks like our schedule.' We have an extremely difficult schedule this year. A lot of our non-conference games will be tough - it seems like a bunch of them are ranked in somebody's top 10. And I think the Big 12 should be the best it has ever been from top to bottom. I think I can speak for the rest of the coaches in the league when I say that. Eight teams have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA Tournament. The thing that impresses me most about our conference is how well every team is coached. You better be good at home in this league because it's tough to get a road win."

On the benefit of returning experienced guards:
"We have a lot of experience back. I don't want to overtrump that and say that's why we're going to be great, but I think it provides good leadership for the new guys. Hollis, Quannas and Ebi are Kevin Bookout's, De'Angelo Alexander's and Larry Turner's best friends right now because they can look up to them and see how to practice. That's where the experience helps. On the other hand, there are a lot of guys who, early in the season, will want to make their reputation on how they do against Hollis. And how they'll do against a Final Four point guard in Quannas. And now people know that Ebi can score. That's going to make it tougher for him. In a lot of ways the experience is good, but it also gives opposing players something to shoot for."

On the team's freshmen:
"You must be more patient and sensitive to them making mistakes. I only get upset when a mistake is repeated. Failure is the first step on the ladder of success. It's important to understand that. But Kevin Bookout, De'Angelo Alexander, Matt Gipson and Larry Turner are nowhere close to understanding the toughness level that they must compete at. I think they'll have to play a game before they can understand that."

On freshman forward Kevin Bookout:
"As long as he progresses, I believe he has a chance to be one of the top freshmen in the nation. He's not a normal freshman because of his size. His size and great hands are a great benefit to him. For a freshman, he has great maturity and self-pride. I don't know how he will play in the first few games, but I can guarantee he will be playing better in December. He's nowhere near to how good he will be."

On the advantages of going to the Final Four:
"It creates expectations and changes perception. At the University of Oklahoma, you have a chance to succeed in every sport. The Final Four was great for our program, but it did a lot for our university. From a pride standpoint, when our kids walk in the gym they know they are at a place that exudes class."

SENIOR QUANNAS WHITE
On what it would mean for he and Hollis Price to play in the Final Four in their hometown of New Orleans:

"It'd be great. But we're just going to try to take one game at a time. Getting back to the Final Four and trying to win a national championship will be tough. Right now we're trying to be leaders to the new guys and show them the ropes. If we continue to do that then I think everything will take care of itself and we'll have a good shot of getting there."

SENIOR HOLLIS PRICE
On whether he prefers OU to be the hunter or the hunted:

"I'd rather be the hunter. But we've got to deal with what we've got. We're the hunted now, but we still have to keep our same mentality. We have to play with a chip on our shoulder every time we touch the floor. And we need to walk into a place like we own it. We have to play hard-nosed Sooner basketball day in and day out."

SENIOR EBI ERE
On freshman forward Kevin Bookout:

"Bookout's a strong body on the block. He gets good post position down low and he's a great rebounder. You can tell that just by his size - 270 pounds and 6-foot-8. He goes after every rebound hard, he really goes to the boards. I think he'll be good for the team."

FRESHMAN KEVIN BOOKOUT
On his ability to make an impact:

"I think I can make an impact. Our perimeter guys are so good. They should give me an opportunity to board and rebound and help out. These guys have been to the Final Four and they're going to really push me and get the most out of me every game. The seniors are unreal. They practice so hard every day and are always there to pick me up. That's helped a lot."

FRESHMAN De'ANGELO ALEXANDER
On his confidence level as a true freshman:

"I have a lot of confidence. I don't think you can be a really good basketball player if you don't have confidence in yourself. And I have a lot of confidence in my team. Everybody's really working hard in practice."

On the upcoming season:
"Coach has been working us extremely hard and I expect we will have a great season. We have a chance to get back to the Final Four and to win it all."