Family Runs Deep at Alumni Weekend
NORMAN - The University of Oklahoma men’s basketball program welcomed back over 120 former players and staff members on Friday and Saturday for the eighth annual Sooner Basketball Family Weekend. Sooners young and old gathered on the OU campus in continued support of their alma mater and the legacy of Oklahoma basketball.
The most notable presence in Norman was five-time NBA All-Star Blake Griffin, who returned to OU for the opening of the Griffin Family Performance Center.
The facility is among the first of its kind among college basketball programs. Some of the many features include training courts, free weights, indoor turf, outdoor turf with sand pit, spaces for plyometric and cardiovascular training, cardio and strength testing, locker rooms, an exam and recovery area, a fueling station, a multi-purpose room and overhead fresh-air doors.
The Griffin brothers got their first look of the facility on Friday as soon Blake arrived in Norman. The building was then formally dedicated on Saturday with a special ceremony that included both the men's and women's basketball teams, the Griffin family, OU president James L. Gallogly and director of athletics Joe Castiglione.
“It’s a little overwhelming, I just can’t quite find the words," said Griffin. "It’s something that means a lot to me. It was a great feeling out there for not only me but all the student-athletes. This facility has been a huge success. I have to thank the donors, specifically Tim Headington...he’s been huge in helping build this along with a ton of other donors. I’m glad to be a part of this and it’s something I’m really proud of.”
The financial gifts of the Griffin family helped make the new performance center possible, and now provides immeasurable resources to Oklahoma basketball student-athletes.
Similar to Griffin giving back to his alma mater, the Oklahoma basketball program is excited to give back to its alumni through use of the facility.
“This facility is first and foremost for the current and future student-athletes, but it is also the players’ house," said Castiglione. "Many of our former student-athletes have left a great legacy, something that we’re building on with today’s success. All of the players on, or are trying to make rosters, in the NBA, or G-League or internationally, we want them to come and use this when they are back in Norman...We want them to feel like they can use this because they helped make this possible. Not just by their financial generosity but by their great legacies and the success they left.”
Although the ushering in of the Griffin Family Performance Center was the focal point of this year’s alumni weekend, many other events took place over Friday and Saturday as Sooners for Life returned home.
The weekend began with the Tip-In Club Golf Tournament where a record number of registered teams played the beautiful OU Jimmie Austin Golf Club.
On Friday evening, a reception was held in the performance center followed by the annual alumni banquet on the floor of Lloyd Noble Center. The program included an auction to benefit the Wayman Tisdale Scholarship Fund along with a program that included stories shared by legendary Sooners Alvan Adams, Billy Tubbs and Buddy Hield, an address from Lon Kruger and a Q&A with Castiglione and Blake Griffin.
The festivities concluded with the Legends Alumni Game on Saturday afternoon, which pitted Blake Griffin’s Team Cream against Team Crimson – coached by Buddy Hield and Trae Young. Cream was led by a dynamic scoring duo of Taj Gray and Cade Davis, who combined to score 53 points, but Crimson snuck out a 91-86 victory. Crimson’s leading scorer with Christ Black with 26 points, while James Fraschilla sunk five 3-pointers to score 17.
“It got very competitive,” said Young. “Especially between me, Buddy and Blake - we all want to win. We didn’t want to do those pushups. I’m glad me and Buddy could draw up a few plays to get us a win.”
Following the game, all fans and alumni in attendance took a group poster photo before an autograph session on the main floor to close out the weekend.
One of the highlights of every season under Kruger, current and past Sooners alike continue to cherish the memories and moments that come from alumni weekend.
“It’s always fun,” said Hield. “It’s always a blessing to come back here, it’s home for me. To see Coach Kruger and guys like Blake and Trae, it’s a blessing to be a part of this program. We’re a family so we have to embrace it. It’s my third year coming back and I’m looking forward to many more after this.”