Nov. 14, 2002

GAME INFORMATION
Ranked third in the initial AP and ESPN/USA Today polls, Oklahoma begins its 2002-03 regular season against No. 8/8 Alabama in the Coaches vs. Cancer AT&T Wireless Classic Thursday at approximately 9:30 p.m. EST inside New York City's Madison Square Garden. The game will air live on the Sooner Basketball Radio Network (flagship KOMA 1520 AM in Oklahoma City) with Bob Barry Sr. (play-by-play) and Mike Houck (analyst) calling the action. The contest will be televised nationally by ESPN2 with Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Dick Vitale (analyst) and Jay Bilas (courtside reporter) announcing.

The OU-Alabama affair will follow the Memphis-Syracuse game. On Friday, Marquette will meet Villanova before Georgia will face Texas. The AT&T Wireless Classic benefits the Coaches vs. Cancer program.

OKLAHOMA UPDATE
The Sooners, who began preseason conditioning in early September and held their first practice on Oct. 12, are ready to hit the hardwood for a real game. Oklahoma won its lone exhibition contest on Saturday, 76-61, over Global Sports at Lloyd Noble Center. OU returns 10 players from its 2001-02 roster, four of them starters, and is coming off a 31-5 campaign that included a second-place Big 12 regular season finish, a second consecutive Big 12 Tournament title and the school's fourth Final Four appearance. The 31 wins tied as the second most in single-season school history.

Leading the Sooner charge to a repeat Final Four trip will be senior All-America candidate Hollis Price. The 6-1 guard has been named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by both league coaches and media and is a Wooden and Naismith Awards candidate. Price averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game last year to go along with 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per outing. He was the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA West Regional MVP last March.

Senior wing Ebi Ere earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year acclaim last year from both coaches and media and, like Price, was named to this year's preseason list of 50 Wooden Award candidates. Ere averaged 14.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals per contest last year en route to earning honorable mention all-conference honors.

Senior point guard Quannas White was a member of the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team last season and led the Sooners in assists in 27 of 36 games, including 19 of the final 21 contests. A starter in 33 outings, White averaged 7.6 points, 4.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting .408 from three-point range.

A junior center, Jabahri Brown should contribute more this season following the departure of post Aaron McGhee last year. Brown, who started in 24 of his 30 games last season, averaged 4.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocked shots and 1.2 steals per game. He is the team's second-leading returning rebounder and received votes for the Preseason All-Big 12 Team from conference media.

OU's fifth starter is expected to be freshman forward Kevin Bookout. A second-team Parade All-American last season at Stroud High School, Bookout was labeled "Mr. Basketball" by The Oklahoman after averaging 30.6 points, 16.2 rebounds, 4.0 blocked shots and 2.1 steals per game. He shot an amazing .843 from the field and .706 (12-for-17) from three-point range. Bookout was rated by a national recruiting analyst as the nation's 10th-best high school senior.

MORE ON OKLAHOMA
Besides the four returning starters, the Sooners also welcome back five players who saw action last year. Heading the list is Jason Detrick, a member of the Big 12 All-Reserve Team after averaging 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Joining Detrick as a backcourt member is sophomore Blake Johnston. The reserve point guard averaged 1.7 points and 1.2 assists in 7.9 minutes per contest.

In the frontcourt, senior post Jozsef Szendrei averaged 1.4 points and 2.4 boards in 8.0 minutes per game. He started in four outings. Sophomore forward Johnnie Gilbert played in six games before missing the remainder of the season with hip and shoulder injuries. Vastly improved since last season, Gilbert averaged 4.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in his six contests a year ago (five of them starts). Sophomore forward Michael Liggett played just 20 minutes last season and scored two points. The walk-on saw action in 12 games.

Seeking their first regular season action in OU uniforms will be redshirt freshman Matt Gipson and newcomers De'Angelo Alexander, Larry Turner and Ezra Zoschke. Gipson is a 6-9 forward who earned Texas All-State honors. He has impressed coaches at various points this preseason. Alexander was one of the country's most coveted high school guards last year at Midwest City High School and was a consensus top-50 national recruit. Turner is a physical 6-11 big-body who could be headed for a redshirt campaign. Zoschke transferred to OU after playing at Hesston (Kan.) Junior College the last two years. He is a walk-on.

ABOUT ALABAMA
Thursday's game will also be the first of the regular season for Alabama, which won its two exhibition games by a combined four points. The Crimson Tide knocked off EA Sports on Nov. 1 by a 97-94 count before edging Athletes in Action on Nov. 7 by a 72-71 score. Sophomore point guard Maurice "Mo" Williams averaged 32.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 steals in the exhibition contests while senior forward Erwin Dudley averaged 19.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. Williams, the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year last season after averaging 10.4 points and 4.5 assists per game, was 21-of-37 from the field (.568) and 12-of-18 (.667) from three-point range in the two exhibition victories. Dudley was named last year's SEC Player of the Year after averaging 15.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game for the Tide.

Alabama went 27-8 last season and won the SEC title with a 12-4 league mark. Head coach Mark Gottfried's team lost in the SEC Tournament title game by three points to Mississippi State before going 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 2-seeded Tide beat Florida Atlantic, 76-68, before losing to Kent State, 71-58.

Gottfried, who returns four starters from last year, is 82-50 (.621) in four years at Alabama and 150-74 (.670) overall in seven seasons. The Alabama alum guided Murray State to a three-year 68-24 (.739) record.

ALABAMA SERIES HISTORY
Oklahoma holds a 3-0 series advantage against the Crimson Tide. The Sooners last played Alabama in the championship game of the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City during the 1997-98 season. OU won the game 79-61 behind 22 points from Corey Brewer. Brewer, who also collected 11 rebounds, was one of three Sooners who had double-doubles in the contest. Ryan Humphrey had 13 points and 13 boards while Eduardo Najera registered 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Sooners outboarded the Tide, 54-34. Oklahoma also beat Alabama in 1971-72 in Norman (79-73) and in 1970-71 in Tuscaloosa (79-70).

EXHIBITION RECAP
The Sooners started the 2002-03 season on the right foot by knocking off Global Sports in an exhibition affair Saturday night, 76-61. Hollis Price scored 17 of his game-high 21 in the first half while Ebi Ere picked up the slack after halftime by scoring all 16 of his points in the second 20 minutes. In his first action in an Oklahoma uniform, freshman forward Kevin Bookout made 7-of-9 field goal tries and finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and no turnovers. OU trailed 14-8 at the 12:40 mark of the first half but outscored the All-Stars 30-12 the rest of the period to carry a 12-point lead to intermission. Global Sports scored the first basket of the second half to cut OU's lead to 10 but never drew closer as the Sooners led by as many as 20. Oklahoma shot .468 from the field, .409 from 3-point range and .643 from the foul line while the All-Stars recorded .442, .364 and .500 marks. Quannas White scored eight points and had two assists while freshman De'Angelo Alexander had seven points and four boards. Blake Johnston came off the bench to hand out a game-high five assists. Jabahri Brown and Johnnie Gilbert fouled out after scoring two points apiece. Global Sports center Daniel Watts led the All-Stars with 14 points and forward Charles Gosa added 11. The win was OU's 16th in 17 exhibition games under Sampson.

MSG: NOT-SO-FRIENDLY CONFINES
Oklahoma has traveled to New York City 13 previous times in its history and sports a 4-10 record inside famed Madison Square Garden. The Sooners last played there in the 1992 postseason NIT when Billy Tubbs' crew knocked off Colorado in the semifinals before falling to Stanford in the championship game. Tubbs' 1981-82 team lost to Bradley inside Madison Square Garden in the 1982 NIT semifinals. Prior to that year, all of Oklahoma's Madison Square Garden appearances took place between the 1939-40 and the 1950-51 seasons. The Sooners lost the 1947 national championship game to Holy Cross at the Garden, 58-47.

PRESEASON BIG 12 PREDICTIONS
In the annual preseason Big 12 media poll released Tuesday, Oklahoma was picked to finish second in the league race behind Kansas. OU received 10 of the 27 first-place votes. Big 12 coaches also picked the Sooners to finish second behind the Jayhawks. The two polls looked similar:

BIG 12 MEDIA POLL
Team (first-place votes)
1. Kansas (16)
2. Oklahoma (10)
3. Texas (1)
4. Missouri
5. Texas Tech
6. Oklahoma State
7. Iowa State
8. Colorado
9. Baylor
10. Nebraska
11. Kansas State
12. Texas A&M

BIG 12 COACHES POLL
Team (first-place votes)
1. Kansas (7)
2. Oklahoma (3)
3. Texas (2)
4. Missouri
5. Texas Tech
6. Oklahoma State
7. Iowa State
8. Baylor
9. Colorado
10. Nebraska
11. Kansas State
12. Texas A&M

OU SECURES BEST PRESEASON AP RANKING
OU's No. 3 preseason AP ranking marks its highest ever heading into a season. The Sooners' previous best AP ranking heading into a season was No. 5, in both 1984-85 and 1988-89. Oklahoma finished both of those seasons ranked No. 4 in the AP poll under head coach Billy Tubbs.

OPENING STATEMENT
Oklahoma has won 16 of its last 17 season-opening games with the lone defeat during the stretch coming to Massachusetts in 1993 (84-83). The Sooners are 8-0 in season openers under Kelvin Sampson. OU's smallest margin of victory in an opener during the Sampson era is 11 points (vs. Coppin State in 1994-95).

OKLAHOMA IN NATIONAL PUBLICATIONS
The Sooners are ranked third nationally in the season's first AP and ESPN/USA Today top-25 coaches polls. Third seems to be the preseason ranking of choice for OU as seven of the nine magazine or Internet publications listed below have the Sooners in that slot:

Espn.com (1)
Athlon (3)
Basketball News (3)
CBSsportsline.com (3)
Lindy's (3)
Playboy (3)
Street and Smith's (3)
The Sporting News (3)
Slam (4)
FoxSports.com (5)

PRICE-LESS
One of the best guards to ever wear an Oklahoma uniform, senior Hollis Price already ranks 22nd on the school's all-time scoring chart. If he duplicates last year's 577-point performance this season, Price will wind up seventh on the career scoring list. The New Orleans native also ranks third in career free throw percentage (.826), sixth in three-point field goal attempts (.398), seventh in three-point field goals (147), eighth in minutes played (3,155), eighth in steals (170), ninth in assists (366) and ninth in steals per game (1.7). Price was named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year by league coaches and media and is also considered a strong preseason candidate for the Wooden and Naismith Awards. Additionally, he picked up preseason All-America honors from Playboy. Price averaged 16.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game last year to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors, as well as third-team All-America recognition from The Sporting News. He shot .382 from three-point range and .838 from the foul line. He wrapped up the season by earning Big 12 Tournament and NCAA West Regional MVP honors.

Said OU head coach Kelvin Sampson, "To me, he's our heart and soul. Hollis embodies what we want in a Sooner basketball player. The way he practices, the way he carries himself off the court, the way he performs in the classroom, his effort and his pride are impressive. There are very few things in the future that I dread, but I can honestly tell you that I'm really, really dreading senior night. I'm going to really enjoy every minute I'm with Hollis this year because I don't know when I'll get another one like him."

RARE FRESHMAN START
Forward Kevin Bookout is expected to become just the second freshman to start the first game of a season for Oklahoma under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson. The only other freshman to crack the starting lineup to start a year was guard Prince Fowler in the 1994-95 campaign, Sampson's first at OU. Fowler had seven points, four rebounds and nine assists in 30 minutes of action against Coppin State on Nov. 26, 1994. Saturday in OU's exhibition game against Global Sports, Bookout started and produced 15 points on 7-of-9 field goal shooting and hauled in seven rebounds in 30 minutes. Bookout was a second-team Parade All-American last year at Stroud (Okla.) High School.

NEUTRAL COURT SUCCESS
Thanks largely in part to its recent postseason successes, Oklahoma owns a 24-4 record in neutral court contests over the last three seasons. The Sooners were 8-1 each of the last two seasons and posted an 8-2 mark in 1999-2000. Oklahoma has won the last two Big 12 Tournaments (6-0 combined record) and went 4-1 in the NCAA Tournament last year.

A CHARITY CASE
Oklahoma has traditionally been a sound free throw shooting team under Kelvin Sampson as seven of his eight squads have finished first or second in the conference in the category. Last year, the Sooners, who finished seventh nationally in free throw shooting, led the Big 12 with a .767 season mark (they shot an amazing .798 in league games) and broke the school record of .755 set in 1985-86. OU boasted four of the Big 12's top 10 free throw shooters in Hollis Price (4th), Aaron McGhee (5th), Jason Detrick (6th) and Ebi Ere (10th). The quartet combined for an .820 season figure (415-for-506) and shot .843 in league contests (219-for-271). In its five NCAA Tournament games the Sooners posted an .802 free throw mark (97-for-121). The Sooners also paced the league in 2000-01 with a .740 season mark.

HOME IS WHERE THE "W" IS
Lloyd Noble Center has always been extremely kind to the Sooners, and last season was no different. Oklahoma, which posted a perfect 16-0 mark at home last year, is 341-59 (.853) inside the building since it opened for the 1975-76 campaign. The Sooners are 104-16 (.867) at home under ninth-year head coach Kelvin Sampson and have won 22 straight. The 22-game home winning streak is OU's longest since winning 51 in a row in the late 1980s and early 1990s and ranks as the nation's sixth-longest current skein.

OU BOASTS NATION'S SECOND-LONGEST POSTSEASON STREAK
OU has participated in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament in each of the last 21 seasons. During that stretch the Sooners have made the NCAA field 17 times and have played in the NIT on four occasions. The 21-year streak is the second longest in the nation. OU trails only Indiana, which has made 25 straight postseason appearances.

MODEL OF CONSISTENCY
Oklahoma has registered a winning record in 25 of its last 26 seasons. No other Big 12 team can boast as many winning campaigns since the 1975-76 season as the Sooners. OU has posted a 588-251 (.701) record over the past 26 years.

EIGHT STRAIGHT...AND COUNTING
Oklahoma has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of Kelvin Sampson's eight years in Norman. Only eight other schools have made the "Big Dance" each of the past eight seasons (Arizona, Cincinnati, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Stanford and UCLA).

THE LAST THREE YEARS
Over the last three seasons, Oklahoma has amassed an 84-19 (.816) record, good for the nation's fourth best winning percentage and fourth most wins during the span:

By Winning Percentage
1. Duke (.880)
2. Cincinnati (.825)
3. Stanford (.821)
4. Oklahoma (.816)

By Victories
1. Duke (95-13)
2. Cincinnati (85-18)
2. Tulsa (85-23)
4. Oklahoma (84-19)

UNDER KELVIN SAMPSON...

  • Oklahoma has posted an 84-19 (.816) record over the last three years, good for an average of 28.0 wins per season during the span.
  • Oklahoma has recorded five consecutive 20-win seasons.
  • Oklahoma owns a 68-28 (.708) Big 12 Conference record.
  • Oklahoma has won the last two Big 12 Tournament championships.
  • Oklahoma has competed in each of the last eight NCAA Tournaments.
  • Oklahoma has won its last 22 home games (sixth-longest current streak in NCAA Division I).
  • Oklahoma has finished 12th (2000), 13th (2001) and third (2002) in the last three final AP polls.