While spring football practices still going in Norman, some Sooners are joining with college basketball fans looking towards this weekend’s Final Four a couple miles south in North Texas.
We checked in with some of the biggest basketball fans on the team to get their take on the Final Four, which teammates they’d put on their starting five and some of their favorites memories from the hardcourt glory days.
Sophomore linebacker Dominique Alexander is looking at Kentucky to win it all, finding an affinity with the Wildcats’ roster full of underclassmen.
“I was a true freshman, they’re true freshmen, they did their thing on the court, I did my thing on the field,” Alexander said. “I like all the freshmen, they’re cold. I like (James) Young, I like (Julius) Randle, I like the (Harrison) twins, all of them.”
The Harrison twins, Aaron and Andrew, were arguably the two best guards in the nation last year out of high school and both played in the McDonald’s High School All-America game. Each standing 6-foot-6, Alexander can still remember playing against the two brothers in middle school – it wasn’t pretty.
“They were cold then, too. They were at the height they are now in eighth grade. We traveled down to Texas and played them in the (AAU) finals. We got beat pretty bad, but hey, it’s all good,” he said, smiling.
Alexander also remembers the first time he dunked back in eighth grade. Instead of getting props, he got a technical.
“I was more athletic then; I weighed less, so I used to get up. I got a technical foul for it because it was when the referees came down for warm-ups. When the referees come out you’re supposed to stop dunking. But then during the game I caught an oop from the sideline and – bang!
Alexander went on to win two state high school championships at Washington High School in Tulsa.
Sophomore cornerback Zack Sanchez went with a different school, tabbing Florida to win it all.
“I think Florida’s too strong for everybody,” he explained. “They’ve got the good post players, the good point guard, so I’m going with Florida.”
So who would Sanchez pick from his teammates for a pick-up game?
“I’m going to start with the big man, I’m going to get Geneo (Grissom),” he said. “Tap [Charles Tapper] is my four. Shep [Sterling Shepard] at the one, T-Knight [Trevor Knight] as my three and I’ve got to put myself in there. I bring the defense and on fast breaks I’m going to dunk that thing. I think we could beat anybody.”
Junior defensive end Charles Tapper was a standout basketball player for Nike Baltimore Elite before he turned his concentration to football. Basketball skills run in the family – his first cousins are the Harrison twins from Kentucky.
“I’ve got to go with my family and Kentucky,” said Tapper of his Final Four winner. “I’ve got two cousins on the team, the two twins, so I’m going with them. I’m going to try to go down there, purchase my own tickets, cheer them on and hopefully get to see them afterwards.”
Tapper’s favorite memory? Also a dunk.
“My favorite is the first time I got my first put-back dunk,” he said. “It was in high school my sophomore year, the gym was packed, and the guy had missed a free throw. I took one step back, came back and just dunked it as hard as I could.”
Tapper echoed Sanchez’s pick-up selections with one change, instead going for a bigger starting five by putting in “Big J” Jordan Phillips in place of Knight.
Even head coach Bob Stoops has gotten into March Madness thanks to two connections with the University of Wisconsin. One of Stoops’ former quarterbacks from his coaching days at Iowa, Gordy Bohannon, has a son, Zach, who is a member of the Badger basketball team.
“Gordy’s son, Zach, I followed him early,” Stoops said. “I’m happy for him, proud for him. Gordy is, of course, a great friend, our Rose Bowl quarterback and Big Ten champion.”“Also, (Wisconsin Director of Athletics) Barry Alvarez is a very close friend of mine and one of my former coaches at Iowa so I called him the other day to congratulate him,” said Stoops. “I love watching [the NCAA Tournament] like everybody here. Once it gets down to about 16 is when I start paying attention.”