As the Gulf Coast continues to recover from the terrible destruction of Hurricane Harvey, the Oklahoma men’s basketball team will do its part to help raise support for the rebuilding efforts with a charity scrimmage on Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners face UT Arlington in a noon exhibition that gives fans their first glimpse at this year’s squad.
While that first chance of the season to play a game in front of fans is an exciting opportunity for the entire Oklahoma roster, three Sooners will be playing for the city they call home.
“I can’t wait for it,” said sophomore guard Kameron McGusty. “Being able to raise some money to give back to where we all grew up – one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s definitely going to be an honor and I advise everybody to come and enjoy the show that we’re going to have.”
Raised in nearby Katy, Texas, McGusty is one of three current Sooners from the Houston area along with Houston natives Christian James and Khadeem Lattin. For all three Sooners from the Houston area, the storms of late August were heart wrenching to watch, even from safety in Norman.
"I’m proud to be a part of a team and a culture and university that wants to give back to the community that their players come from."
-- Khadeem Lattin
“That was a tough thing, watching the destruction that Harvey did,” said Lattin. “When it actually hit and the floods started to get out of hand, that was at the same point I fell out of communication with my family, and that hurt and had me worried. Thank God, I called them the next day, we talked and they got ok. A lot of families weren’t as fortunate as mine.”
“It’s definitely a scary situation,” James added. “Not knowing how your family is doing, and just being away from them. The freeways were under water around my part of the city. I just really had to check in and keep praying and hope they were ok.”
While watching the news coverage and images of the hurricane’s destruction, the group was horrified by what they saw in their hometown.
“It was crazy honestly,” McGusty said. “Seeing some of your childhood spots not there anymore or seeing them destroyed, and knowing that you can never go back and it’ll be the same. Definitely devastating and it was also scary. My family and friends are out there, and it’s a tragedy that you would never wish on any type of city, especially Houston because being from there is an honor. It’s a pleasure to be a Houstonian.”
Through the storms, the group of proud Houston residents were able to take comfort in the support of their teammates, coaches and fellow Houston Sooners.
“It definitely helps a lot knowing that you have support and you’re not the only one going through things like that,” James said. “You never want to see anybody go through things like that, life changing things. Some people’s houses were under water and some people died from that. You want to keep people uplifted and stay positive.”
With tragedy comes a chance for people to come together for good. Saturday’s scrimmage offers just that – not just for the trio of Houston residents donning the Crimson and Cream, but for all of Sooner Nation.
“It was beautiful seeing all the people that rallied behind us (the city of Houston) and trying to affect change in a serious way,” Lattin said. “And now being one of those people that are able to donate a high amount, to do something big for my city, and to help recover with the hurricane relief is a big deal. I’m proud to be a part of a team and a culture and university that wants to give back to the community that their players come from. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Saturday's scrimmage will have open seating and not require tickets. Fans on campus for Oklahoma’s homecoming football game against Texas Tech (7 p.m. kickoff) are encouraged to get their first look at this season's men’s basketball team. Those in attendance have the opportunity to donate to the United Way Harvey Recovery Fund via text message with a suggested donation of $5 per person.