Capel Inks Four: Group Rated 14th

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

Nov. 12, 2008

NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma men's basketball head coach Jeff Capel and his staff continue to make names for themselves on the recruiting trail and, for the third straight November, unveiled an impressive four-man list of signees today.  The group is rated No. 14 nationally by and features three top-100 players.

Headlining the high school foursome is Houston, Texas, point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin, the country's No. 24 overall player and No. 3 point guard according to  Mason-Griffin, who attends James Madison High School and was named the 2008 Houston Chronicle All-Greater Houston Postseason Boys' Basketball Player of the Year, is also regarded by ESPN as the nation's No. 37 overall player and sixth-best point guard.  Joining Mason-Griffin among OU's November signees are top-75 forward Andrew Fitzgerald (Baltimore, Md./Brewster [N.H.] Academy), top-100 guard Steven Pledger (Chesapeake, Va./Atlantic Shores Christian School) and four-star forward Kyle Hardrick (Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City HS).

"It's a great day for our program and for the future of our program," said Capel, who starts his third season at Oklahoma Friday at 7 p.m. when the Sooners open against American.  "We're really excited about all four guys.  We think they're really good basketball players and, even more importantly, are really good kids.

"I thank the University of Oklahoma and the city of Norman because they're huge reasons these four kids wanted to come here and be a part of what we're building.  We look forward to following them during their senior years and then getting them here and involving them in every aspect of our program."

 PDF Version | 2008-09 Men's Basketball Ticket Information national basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep said Oklahoma's class is a strong one because of the varied type of players it features.

"If you look at all the pieces of this class at OU, they're all really different," said Telep.  "At the end of the day, that's what really gives this class some pop and really gives it some strength.  It's a class made up of a diverse group of guys."


6-8, 260, F, Baltimore, Md. (Brewster [N.H.] Academy)
Andrew Fitzgerald is a 6-8, 260-pound senior at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.  Originally from Baltimore, Md., Fitzgerald played as a junior at Owings Mills (Md.) High School where he averaged 21.0 points, 18.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocked shots and led his team to the Class 1A North Region state finals (lost in three overtimes to Dunbar High School).   Rated in the top 100 nationally by several recruiting analysts, he has lost nearly 50 pounds since last year according to Jason Smith, his coach at Brewster.  Fitzgerald is ranked No. 63 in the country by ESPN (No. 23 power forward), No. 85 by (No. 14 center) and No. 100 by (No. 13 center).

"Andrew's a big kid who really knows how to score, knows how to use his body.  He has great touch for a big man.  He's about 6-8, but has more than a seven-foot wingspan.  And he's a good 260 pounds.  He can run and is a little better athlete than you think.  He has great footwork in the post, but can also shoot it.  He can step away, and that's one of the things that a lot of people don't know about him.  He primarily played on the block in AAU, but he can step away and hit from 18, 19 feet, and look good doing it.  We also anticipate him being a guy who gets fouled a lot and makes free throws on a consistent basis."

"Andrew is a tremendous young man who is going to be a great addition to the Oklahoma community, as well as to the basketball program.  He's very skilled, has an extremely high basketball I.Q. and has just been a great addition here at Brewster.  For someone his size, he has tremendous footwork and he can consistently knock down shots from 18, 19 feet.  But more importantly, he understands how to play.  A lot of kids these days don't understand how to play the game.

"Off the court, we have a recognition system here on campus whereby the kids are evaluated and graded by all their teachers, their dorm parents and - if they're involved in athletics - their coaches every four weeks.  He's earned the highest level of recognition on campus.  It's mainly based on work ethic, character, ability to meet commitments on time, etc.  He's gone above and beyond the minimum expectations.  He's an overall great, great kid." 

"When he lost all the weight last spring, that was pretty much all you needed to know about him.  It showed that he was dedicated to maxing out his talents.  He's really a true low block guy, just a solid kid who probably starts a few years for the Sooners down the road."


6-8, 230, F, Oklahoma City, Okla. (Putnam City High School)
A longtime Oklahoma commit (since spring 2006), Kyle Hardrick is in his first year at Putnam City High School after playing his freshman year at Lawton Eisenhower High School and the last two seasons at Norman High School.  A post player who can also step out for the mid-range shot, Hardrick is a quality rebounder who possesses a good feel for the game. rates him as a four-star player and as the No. 22 center in the country. ranks him 145th nationally in the 2009 class and lists him as the No. 39 power forward.  ESPN rates him as the country's No. 35 power forward.

"Kyle Hardrick has basically been a part of our program since I got here.  He committed very early and we're excited to have him officially be a part of the Sooner family.  He gives us size and added post depth, and he's skilled.  He can pass the ball, he can shoot it to about 15 feet.  We're excited to get him here, to work with him, help him become a better basketball player and see the things he can bring to our team."

"Being in the basketball circle, knowing him and knowing that he played with (AAU team) Athletes First, this is a young man that possesses a lot of talent.  What I've been fortunate to do is get to know him as a person, as well.  He's come into our school this year and we assessed the things that we felt he needed to address and work on.  He's been very receptive and very coachable.  I'm probably not a very easy guy to play for, and he has responded extremely well.  He's out there every day with a great work ethic.  We've talked about his toughness and his intensity, and his determination to work hard, particularly on defense and in controlling the backboard.  At the same time, we want him to be a great offensive threat for us inside.  He has responded in every aspect.  We're just starting and it's a long ways to the finish, but what I see so far excites me a great deal."

"I think Kyle Hardrick is an intelligent frontcourt kid.  He really excelled in the high-low setting on his AAU team, which tells you he's a good passer.  He has to get stronger.  If he does, I think his confidence will grow and he'll start being able to look for things offensively a little bit more.  Defensively, he's long and he'll take care of shots when (opponents) drive at him.  But I really think the weight program at Oklahoma is going to fuel his confidence."


5-10, 205, G, Houston, Texas (James Madison HS)
Oklahoma's highest-ranked high school point guard signee since McDonald's All-American Drew Lavender (high school class of 2003), Tommy Mason-Griffin boasts a long list of on-court tangibles.  Among them are his ability to break down defenses off the dribble, find teammates with pinpoint passing, shoot from mid and long range, finish in the lane with contact and use his exceptional quickness defensively.  Playing for James Madison High School, last year Mason-Griffin averaged 23.1 points (26.6 in the playoffs) and 7.0 assists per game.  He is rated by Mike Kunstadt's as the state's No. 3 player in the 2009 class.  Nationally, Mason-Griffin is ranked No. 24 by (No. 3 point guard), No. 37 by ESPN (No. 6 point guard) and No. 66 by (No. 11 point guard).

"First and foremost, he's a true point guard.  He's played the position his whole life, he knows the position.  He's an elite level point guard.  Tommy's fast, quick, strong, can really push the ball and can really pass it.  But he also has the ability to score - from long range, from mid range and by getting to the basket.  We're really excited about him.  It's a great day for our program, and for our future, getting a player like Tommy.

"Really, the only true point guard we've had since I've been here is Omar Leary.  And throughout his career, Omar's been more of a scoring guard.  Tommy's an elite-level kid.  I think he has the chance to be a really, really good college basketball player.  He can really dictate tempo and is kind of a quarterback on the floor.  The one thing that separates him, and to me makes him elite, is that he can create offense.  Really good basketball teams have guys who can create offense.  Tommy's a guy who can put it on the floor and do that."

"His strength is his strength, and so is his shooting ability.  He's also a great passer.  He can come down and hit a kid in stride (with a pass) and finish on the break, or if you need him come down, take it over and put it in the hole, he can do that too.  He also performs well in big games.  The bigger the game, the more he rises to the occasion.  He plays real well under pressure.  His best games have been in the playoffs, so when (Oklahoma) gets to March Madness people should really see a treat."

"I think Tommy Mason-Griffin is easily one of the most improved guys in the (overall 2009) class.  It's hard to wrap your mind around, but he's had the same body since ninth grade.  He's always been just a Hercules style point guard, and at one point he was just a very bullish player.  But last spring he began to round his game out.  He became a leader, an exceptional passer and, in turn, one of the most improved guys in the country.  In Tommy Mason-Griffin, I think Jeff Capel has a four-year starter at the point.

"To be really good at the high major level at that position, it comes down to having a presence.  I think Tommy just gets it.  He understands what it means to lead a team and he'll be ready to hit the ground running at Oklahoma." 


6-4, 190, G, Chesapeake, Va. (Atlantic Shores Christian School)
Known for his perimeter shooting ability, Steven Pledger is a well-built, hard-working wing player who has expanded his game over the course of the last year according to Bruce Croxton, his head coach at Atlantic Shores Christian School.  Pledger helped his team to a 29-7 record and the final four of the state playoffs last year where it lost to eventual champion Potomac School.  He was a Virginia Independent Schools Division II first-team All-State selection after averaging 21.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.  He shot .540 from the field, .488 from 3-point distance and .820 from the free throw line.   Pledger is rated No. 92 nationally by ESPN (No. 23 shooting guard) and No. 136 by (No. 32 shooting guard). ranks him as the country's No. 28 shooting guard.

"We're really excited about Steven.  I think he's one of the more underrated guys in the country.  He's a basketball player.  He can really, really shoot the ball and he has a very good feel for the game.  He already has good size at 6-4 and close to 200 pounds.  He just knows how to play.  He's got a very even-keeled game - doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low.  I think he has a chance to be a really good defender.  I also think he's going to complement every guy we have on our team.  With Steven and Tommy (Mason-Griffin) in the backcourt, Sooner fans will have a lot to be excited about."

"This is my 11th year as a varsity coach and I've had kids go on to play at West Virginia, Maryland, Clemson.  I think at this point, Steven is the most complete player I've ever had.  His game is so multi-faceted.  He loves to rebound, he loves to assist.  Everyone knows he can shoot, but he also wants to defend the best player on the other team.  He really just wants to be strong in every part of the game and has worked non-stop to get there.

"His best strength is that he's a dynamic shooter.  Sometimes those types of players aren't as willing to defend as you want them to be because they want to get to the other end and get the ball back.  But he loves to defend.  Offensively, he can also get to the basket and he's a tremendous passer.  Those other pieces of his game make him so valuable."

"Steven Pledger is a guy who works at his craft.  He's a big, strong-body guy who makes a living behind the (3-point) line.  He added some elements off the dribble last spring and summer, but his DNA is as a 3-point shooter.  And that's what he's going to bring to the table at Oklahoma."