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Sooners Meet With Local Media

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

Oct. 28, 2008

NORMAN, Okla. - With only eight days left until it plays its first exhibition game of the 2008-09 season, the Oklahoma men's basketball team met with reporters at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday during its annual local media day.

All 14 OU players were on hand to discuss the upcoming season, one in which the Sooners have been picked by Big 12 coaches to finish first in the conference.

"Hey, it's great," said third-year OU head coach Jeff Capel about his team's preseason No. 1 league ranking. "We are excited. I want these guys to want to come to OU for that. I want guys that we recruit to want to come to OU to be a preseason favorite in the Big 12 and have a chance to have the bullseye on their back. That's what we hope to get this program to on a consistent level."

OU plays its first exhibition game against NCAA Division II member Oklahoma Panhandle State on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. CST.  The Sooners will host Cameron in a second home exhibition game Saturday, Nov. 8 (start time TBA) before opening the regular season at home Friday, Nov. 14 against American at 7 p.m.

Fans may call the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) for ticket information, or they may click here.

  Head Coach Jeff Capel

Opening statement:
"Thank you for being here. Our practices have been going well. The guys have been working hard. It has been very intense and physical. I think we have gotten better and are anxious to play someone else now. We still have some work to do as far as practice is concerned until we get to that point.

"As far as our current guys now, Juan Pattillo practiced some yesterday and we're hopeful he'll be able to continue to go for us without any more injuries. Kyle Cannon is still out with a pulled groin so he missed yesterday.  Knock on wood, fortunately everyone else has been pretty healthy. We have had a couple of bumps and bruises here and there, just like every team in America is going through. We have been fortunate to stay away from the injury bug thus far. Hopefully it can stay the same way."

Video  Capel Press Conference Video
Photos  Photo Gallery

On who are definite starters right now:
"Definite starters - Blake Griffin, Tony Crocker, Austin Johnson.  That's it as far as definites right now."

On if he thinks this will be a better shooting team than last year:
"We hope so. You always think that as a coach, but you never really know. Guys have to make shots in games and in game situations. There were times last year in practice where I thought we were going to be a really good shooting team. We get into a game and it is a different animal. We have some guys who can shoot the basketball and hopefully that can translate over into games. Some of the guys we have returning are really good shooters. Tony Crocker shot over 40 percent last year and hopefully we can get A.J.  (Austin Johnson) where he can shoot both at home and away. We think Cade Davis is a guy who can really shoot the basketball. Obviously, adding a guy like Willie Warren - he can shoot it.  Ray Willis can shoot it.  So we think we will be better in that area."

Video  Blake Griffin
Video  Tony Crocker
Video  Taylor Griffin (on Ryan Wright)
Video  Cade Davis
Video  Austin Johnson
Video  Willie Warren
Video  Ryan Wright
Video  Ray Willis
Video  Juan Pattillo

On the progress of freshman Willie Warren:
"I think he has gotten better. It's still a process. He is not one of the guys like a (Kevin) Durant or (Michael) Beasley where they are going to come in and dominate immediately. It's a process and I think it is that way for most guards. Willie has to get better playing without the basketball, playing without the ball in his hands. Most high school guys are so used to having the ball in their hands all the time that they don't know how to move without it, they don't know how to do other things. He is getting better in that area and he has to continue to allow himself to get better and allow himself to be coached. But he's done a good job for us."

On the potential to be a better defensive team:
"I think we can be. I think we can be better than we were. Athletically we are better than we were last year. I think we're a little bit bigger across the board than we were last year and our returning guys are older so they are experienced.  So I think we can be a better defensive team.  We hope to be a better defensive team.

"When we played teams that were very, very athletic, we struggled.  The Louisvilles, the Memphises, Kansas, even Texas.  Those teams were far superior athletically across the board than us.  With some of the guys we've added, hopefully we've closed that gap a little bit."

On how Blake Griffin's shot and overall improvement will open things up for him and for the team:
"It will open (things) up and he has gotten better in those areas.  With him being able to shoot the ball, shoot with confidence like he is doing right now, you can move him around to different spots - spots that maybe are a little more difficult to double (team). He got doubled every time in the post last year and there is probably a good chance that will happen again this year. If I played against us, I would, because if not, he is going to score or he is going to get fouled. But his ability to do some other things and his desire to work on his game and get better has helped him and helped our basketball team. You hope the rest of the guys work like that and have the desire to get better. I think a lot of our guys have and we need all of them to be on the same page in doing that."

On being picked to win the Big 12:
"I was a little bit surprised the coaches picked us to win it. I knew we would be somewhere in the top three or top four, but I was a little bit surprised to see that they had picked us. Hey, it's great. We are excited. I want these guys to want to come to OU for that. I want guys that we recruit to want to come to OU to be a preseason favorite in the Big 12 and have a chance to have the bullseye on their back. That's what we hope to get this program to on a consistent level."

  Sophomore Guard Cade Davis

On if he thinks the team will be better this year:
"I believe so. Coach Capel has done a tremendous job bringing in new recruits who have tremendous talent, and that is what we need to make this program better. We need those top recruits like Willie (Warren) and Ray (Willis) and those juco transfer guys that we have coming in to push each other. It has been a lot more competitive in practice, which is going to make the team a whole lot better."

On being in his second year:
"Confidence is high - being more knowledgeable, knowing a little more about the game. It has slowed down for me a little bit.  I've just let it come to me and not try and rush things."

On the team's talent:
"It's very exciting to know the possibilities that could come from these guys being here. It's a good feeling. But it's just hearsay unless we put it all to work.  We have been doing that in practice, competing against each other and going at each other every day."

  Junior Guard Tony Crocker

On getting into occasional foul trouble last year and how it interrupts a player's rhythm:
"I was just too aggressive, so that got me in trouble. When you go sit out for awhile and you go back in, you haven't played for like 10 minutes so you have to get back into a rhythm. Basically, you just have to stay out of foul trouble and keep a rhythm going."

On being a more consistent perimeter team:
"On my part I am going to go in and shoot extra shots so hopefully I don't go into a drought and I make all of them. We come to practice to get better - not just to just to shoot, but to get better."

  Freshman Guard Willie Warren

On his offensive strengths and areas in which he needs to improve:
"Getting all the way to the rack. I haven't really developed a mid-range game to where I can pull up. There are going to be times when there are guys bigger than you down there and you aren't going to be able to finish on everyone. You have people who are going to be taking charges on me a lot. (Tony) Crock(er) has taken four of five charges on me already. Blake (Griffin) took one yesterday, so I have to develop a mid-range game."

On his confidence:
"I've had my ups and downs, but Coach Capel and (assistant) Coach (Oronde) Taliaferro have been working with me on that. I'm watching guys like Crock work hard every day, and Blake, and it is just helping me get better at it. If I could just get Crock's athleticism and play hard like him with Austin Johnson's smartness on the court, I feel like I will be all right."

  Senior Forward Taylor Griffin

On UCLA transfer Ryan Wright:
"He is really excited about this year.  He worked his butt off last year getting in the gym and getting extra work in with coaches and going hard every day in practice. It had to be discouraging to a certain extent because he wasn't getting any minutes or seeing any time. You have to respect him for the amount of time he put in."

On Wright taking some of the load off down low:
"I think he is going to contribute a lot. I think he will be a very big defensive presence, he is going to be very big on the boards and he is hard to stop down low. He can step out and he has a pretty good little jumper. I don't think we are going to have any drop off losing Longar (Longar) from last year. I am excited to see what he can do."

  Senior Guard Omar Leary

On being more comfortable in his second season:
"In the offseason, I just tried to focus on learning more about the game because last year it really showed me that I didn't know as much about basketball as I thought I did. I just wanted to take it upon myself to educate myself more on how basketball is supposed to be played. Hopefully that shows this year and I will be able to help my team when I get my chance to."

  Sophomore Forward Blake Griffin

On the team's improvement from last year:
"I think we have kind of taken it to the next level as a team. We are so much deeper this year and so much more athletic that I think it allows us to do more things in practice that Coach Capel wants us to do. An area in which we have improved is depth. Being able to run up and down and just be able to get the ball out of the net and go is definitely something that is going to help out a lot."

On what he has most improved since last year:
"My shot.  I'm more comfortable with it and am able to step out and knock it down.  It won't allow people just to play me inside and will help keep people guessing this year."

  Junior Forward Ryan Wright

On how he can contribute:
"I think with me just being relentless - being relentless on defense and offense, just crashing the boards every time, playing with a lot of passion and being a presence on offense, really posting up hard and presenting myself. Obviously, we know that Blake Griffin is the best big man in the country. He is going to draw a lot of attention and my role on the team is going to have to be to really present myself. When I get opportunities to finish plays I have to go out there and finish them. He is going to draw a lot of attention and we have a lot of offensive firepower on the team. I just have to be really relentless and go out there and finish plays."

On his impression of the Big 12:
"I love Big 12 South basketball. I think it is more suited for me than the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is a great league, a really high-powered offensive league. I think the Big 12 is more physical, (there's) more size and I think that plays to my style of play a lot better. I really like Big 12 South basketball and I look forward to playing in it this year."

  Senior Guard Austin Johnson

On if there was extra pep on the first day of practice with the team picked to win the Big 12:
"There was a little more pep, but it also motivates us. You know coming into practice every day that you have to get better every day because everyone will have the target on our back."

  Sophomore Center Orlando Allen

On OU being a close team:
"We are real united, like a family atmosphere. That is one of the reasons why I chose to come here. It seemed like it was a family atmosphere and it is exactly that way. It is even better than I thought it was going to be. We are like brothers and the coaches are our fathers. It is a real cool environment. Coach Capel is always around laughing and joking with us and we get to have fun. I just love it here."

  Freshman Guard Ray Willis

On his transition from high school:
"It is going all right. It is just a matter of playing hard and bringing the intensity every day. It isn't the same as high school, by far. The first practice, you can just tell it isn't the same.  Everyone is good here. In high school, you just have two or three guys that were good. You have to bring it every day if you want to play here."

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