KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Oklahoma head men's basketball coach Lon Kruger, senior forward Cameron Clark and sophomore guard Buddy Hield left Norman before sunrise Tuesday for Kansas City, Mo., to participate in Big 12 Basketball Media Day.
The trio spent more than four hours at the Sprint Center meeting with print media, as well as reporters from the Big 12 Network, Big12Sports.com, Campus Insiders, ESPN, Fox Sports Net and Sirius/XM Radio, to discuss the upcoming season.
Select quotes from OU's representatives and video of Kruger's session with print media are below, and a special SoonerSports.tv video recap of the day is above.
The Sooners now have 17 practices under their belt as they prepare for their Nov. 2 exhibition opener against Washburn. Kruger's squad will practice the rest of this week (Wednesday through Friday) from 2 to 4:30 p.m., and on Saturday will practice on the Lloyd Noble Center main court from 10 a.m. to noon. All practices are open to the public.
HEAD COACH LON KRUGER
On senior Cameron Clark:
"I think he's ready to do that (come out of his shell). I think he's made progress consistently the last two years. I think now with (last year's) seniors moving on, him becoming a senior, I think he's ready to have that breakout year. He did a little bit in Europe. It was good to see him do that. He's done it consistently in practice. He's not ever going to be an overly vocal guy, but I think just with his demeanor and his aggressiveness and how assertive he is, especially offensively, we need him to do that. We need him to do it on the boards as well. He's doing it offensively right now, which is a good start, and now we need him to do it on the boards, and he's really capable of doing it defensively, too. All that's a process, but he's working at it and doing a really good job."
On how Clark is better offensively:
"Maybe it's not that he's better, but he's going to have more opportunities, and I think he relishes that and I think he welcomes that. He's not going to shy away from it. He's going to need to go get the big bucket for us. He's going to need to do it consistently night after night, and that's a tough role. Roe (Romero Osby) did it for us last year, and everyone else followed in his footsteps. I think Cam learned from that and benefited not just from what Roe did but how he did it, how genuine he was, how consistent he was. I think Cam saw what Roe did as a leader, and I think Cam really made progress as a result of that."
On if OU has a combination of different leadership styles:
"We do. I think especially this group. Last year it was really Roe, and everyone followed his lead. This year it will be a little by committee. You will have a little bit of Buddy's vocal energy and Je'lon a little more reserved but composed. Cam, I think Ryan Spangler -- I think kind of as a group we will have that combination of qualities."
On Isaiah Cousins' role shifting:
"He's much more comfortable, and he's handling it very well. I think the trip to Europe gave him a good opportunity to feel that and experience it. In practice every day, he's consistently a guy getting up shots, getting results, as is Cam. I think, just as was the case during the trip to Europe, different guys have the ability to lead us in scoring on different nights. We need to get to a point where maybe if it's Cam just kind of consistently being one of those guys, it might be Buddy one night, Isaiah one night, Ryan one night, D.J. (Bennett), Je'lon -- a lot of different guys. I think we showed that in Europe that it could be a group. We can have a lot of different guys who can score double figures on a given night. Not that they will all do it every night, but that's not a bad thing."
On junior college center Keshaun Hamilton:
"Doing really well. A guy who loves being here. Everyone just enjoys his personality. He's just open and kind of what you see. He just enjoys it. And really hungry to take it all in and get better and work at it, and he will be a fun guy to watch progress from where he is right now in terms of comfort to March then to next year. It will be a fun progression."
On if he thinks the team is further ahead than last season due to practicing earlier:
"Not so much because of the earlier practice start because you really get in the same number of practices come the first game. You spread them out, which I think is good, but it doesn't really change the amount of surface you cover. The 10 days (of practice) in the summer helped, no question, and the five games (in Europe). We go over there, and Cam gets to exercise that new role and like it. That was good for him. Because Buddy was hurt, Je'lon and Isaiah took on more minutes, and that's a little bit different role, and that was good. Jordan Woodard, an incoming freshman, being able to get some minutes under fire a little bit was good for him. D.J. Bennett really stepped out and had a couple of real good scoring games, which we didn't know how quickly he would do that. He's out a couple of weeks with a slight tendon tear now, but he will be back for the opener, and that will be good."
On freshman point guard Jordan Woodard:
"He's a guy who needs to play a bunch of minutes at that point guard spot. Je'lon has versatility to go back and forth. When Jordan's out there, he can move to the wing and be very comfortable, and when Jordan is not out there, Je'lon can swing over and play the point. We need Jordan to be out there. He's got a good feel for it and good quickness out of the backcourt, delivers the ball, is a true point guard. He's comfortable with that expectation."
On how OU will adjust to the new rules promoting freedom of offensive movement:
"Everyone is going to have the same adjustment requirement. With our athletic ability and quickness and ability to slide our feet, we should be able to adjust as well as anyone. It will be interesting to see how the overpowering low post player might become really dominating, because if you get the ball to him in there it's going to take more than one guy to keep him from getting to the free throw line."
SENIOR FORWARD CAMERON CLARK
On how he's stepped up as a leader:
"Just lead by example. Just being the first one in the gym, the last one to leave. Helping the young guys on and off the court with anything they need. Just making sure they're OK. If they need anything. Helping them with the plays, just to get open, and things like that. Just any way I can help them. Just teach them how I'd like to be taught."
On OU's summer exhibition trip to Europe:
"It was very good. Just going into a leadership role, just being confident. I've been here four years, I feel like it's just my time to go into a leadership role and help my teammates any way I can."
On if taking on a bigger leadership role is showing in how he plays:
"I'm just being aggressive, each and every time I catch the ball. Being aggressive and trying to make a play for me or my teammates. Just being more active. Me and Coach talked about that: being active, going to the boards, just getting in the passing lanes, things like that. Anything I can do to help my team."
On when he and Coach Kruger talked about him taking a leadership role:
"It's been over the course of the (couple) years. This year, I'm just really buying into the new system. Me and Coach just had a talk about how it's my team, it's what I want to do with it, and that's all I'm trying to do."
On if Romero Osby's leadership last year rubbed off on him:
"I actually talked to him last night. We talked about me becoming a leader. He was just telling me, 'Lead by example.' Just work hard and everything will pay off. I talk to him very often, about once every week. That's my big brother. I'm looking up to him. Just looking at his work ethic and how that paid off, and I'm just trying to bring that (this) team."
On his improving 3-point shot:
"It's been there. This year I've just been focused on it. Just trying to showcase all of my abilities. Just after practice shooting more. I'm feeling very comfortable."
SOPHOMORE GUARD BUDDY HIELD
On his shot:
"My shot has improved a lot. I've been working a lot on my shot and my form. I changed my form a little bit to have some more arc on the ball; I'm still shooting it a little flat. As I keep getting more comfortable working in the mornings with Coach (Steve) Henson, my shot's getting better."
On if his foot injury and reaggravation could result in a mental block:
"You always think about it; you don't want to get hurt. But sometimes -- whatever's for me was for me, you know? I've got to leave it to God to handle my situations. Hopefully I don't have that type of injury again. The doctor says it's healed and I'm just trying to stay healthy to help my team have a good season."
On who OU's breakout player will be this year:
"I think everybody's going to have a breakout year. Everybody. Because everybody's put the work together and has been working hard. Putting up extra shots in the gym, coming in in the morning and working with coaches, everybody playing together on the trip to Europe. And staying focused."
On if he likes OU's position going into the season with everyone talking about Kansas and Oklahoma State:
"Everybody's 0-0. You've got to prove something. They (the media) haven't respected us yet and we're looking for respect. We're going to get our respect this year. We've just got to go out there and stay confident and keep playing together as a group."
On where he'd slot OU in the Big 12 race:
"I'd pick OU No. 1. I just have confidence in my team. The chemistry we have and the way we've been playing -- running up and down the court -- I feel that we'll run some teams down and I don't think they'll be able to keep up with us. Hopefully we prove (the media) wrong and we just get after it on the court."
On sophomore forward Ryan Spangler:
"We're always excited about Ryan. He's a good basketball player, coming from Gonzaga. He brings that toughness to our team and we need that to make the next step. Hopefully he keeps bringing more to the table and everybody adds his toughness to their arsenal."