Nothing Tiny About Him
June 25, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. - Lose the national player of the year, as well as two senior starters, and your college basketball team most assuredly will take a step backwards. Or will it? If you're Oklahoma incoming freshman Keith "Tiny" Gallon, you say "not so fast."
Gallon, a 6-9, 300-pound McDonald's All-American who arrived in Norman in early June, is the highest-rated OU recruit in what is one of the highest-rated OU recruiting classes of all-time. He says he is going to do his best to keep Oklahoma at or above the level it performed during a 30-6 campaign last year when the Sooners reached the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.
In fact, that's exactly what Gallon says he's most looking forward to in 2009-10 -- proving wrong the people who think OU will slip following the departure of sophomore Blake Griffin and seniors Taylor Griffin and Austin Johnson.
SoonerSports.com caught up with Gallon this week at OU's practice gym to discuss, among other things, his summer, his basketball career, his mom's cooking, the NBA Draft and, of course, how a 300-pounder got the nickname "Tiny."
Q: When did you arrive in Norman and how have you been spending your time here?
A: I got here on June 4th. Basically I've just been getting adjusted to campus and the people. I'm going to school. I've been getting up at 5 a.m. -- that's a new thing but I'm starting to get used to it."
Q: What do you do at 5 in the morning?
A: "We come to the gym, stretch a little bit and lift weights. Just trying to get stronger."
Q: You signed right before the fall signing period ended. What went into your decision to choose Oklahoma?
A: "Talking to Willie (Warren) and Tommy (Mason-Griffin) a lot. And then talking to Blake Griffin a lot, too. Coach O (assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro) did a great job recruiting me. I came on a visit, I liked it and I decided to come here."
Q: You lost only one game last year at Oak Hill Academy. What was it like to play for a powerhouse program like that?
A: "I was there for two years. It felt good, but last year it was kind of hard every night going out there without a loss (and trying to keep it that way). We lost our last game (for the national high school championship) and that was hard. But if you lose it's going to make you stronger. So it made me stronger as a person. It was good for me to go there and play for Coach (Steve) Smith. It was good for me academically, too. I liked the school."
Q: So you feel like you're better having gone to school there?
A: "Yes, definitely. I was able to learn the game more and get my weight down. That helped me a lot, being away from home and not eating my mom's food she cooks."
Q: What type of food does your mom make that you like?
A: "Soul food. My mom cooks anything -- Mexican food, soul food, stuff like that. But I got away from that at Oak Hill and dedicated myself."
Q: You lived in Houston before you went to Oak Hill. Do you consider Houston home?
A: "No, I'm from Vallejo, California -- in the Bay Area. Houston is my second home, for sure, but California is where all my family is. I moved to Houston right before ninth grade. People ask me where I'm from and I say California. But I also say Houston because I love it the same as I do California."
Q: Tommy Mason-Griffin is also from Houston. How well do you know him?
A: "I've known Tommy since that first week I moved to Houston. That's when I got introduced to AAU. I saw Tommy and he was a prodigy. He was the best point guard I'd seen. He still is. But I've known him since I was about 13 years old."
Q: What do you like about his game?
A: "Everything. He's a scorer, he can pass the ball. One thing about him is he doesn't like when people try to show him up. If you someone thinks they're better than him, he's going to try to go at that guy and make a statement."
Q: You mentioned you talked to Willie Warren during the recruiting process. How long have you known him?
A: "I've known him for about as long as I've known Tommy. It was always the 'Willie Warren Show.' Tommy and I played for the Houston Hoops AAU team and Willie played for Team Texas. We played against them a couple times when I was young and we became close."
Q: Do you wish Blake Griffin would have stuck around for one more year so you could play with him?
A: "I mean, yeah I wish he would have because it could have been the two of us in the high-low. But I can't argue with his decision. He's smart for leaving -- he's going to be the No. 1 pick."
Q: Did you have a pretty good feeling when you signed that he might leave after his sophomore year?
A: "Well I talked to him a few times. Then I heard some people say that he might stay. But then when the season started and I saw the numbers he was putting up and that OU was winning, I just knew he was out."
Q: What are your strengths as a player?
A: "My versatility. I can play outside, but I can go inside. Rebounding. I can be a playmaker, stuff like that."
Q: Do you feel like that playmaking ability is somewhat unusual for a guy your size?
A: "Yeah, it is. There are a lot of big men out there who can make plays. But I like to pull off the fancy play at times. I'm the type of big man that wants to get my teammates involved."
Q: Have you always been big for your age? Where'd you get some of those guard skills?
A: "I'm used to this weight. I was born at 12 pounds, 11 ounces. So it's not like I was skinny and then all of a sudden blew up and got big. I learned my dribbling skills from 'And 1 Mix Tape' on ESPN. I used to watch that every day and do tricks. 'Hot Sauce' used to be my favorite And 1 player. He's the best dribbler I've seen."
Q: In what areas do you need to improve?
A: "I was talking to Coach Capel a couple days ago. He said I'm in good shape, but he wants me to get into tip-top shape. So basically I'd say my conditioning. I'm ready to do that. I'll be working with Yo-Yo (strength coach Jozsef Szendrei) to do that."
Q: How much do you weigh?
A: "Right now I'm about 300 on the dot. I may have lost a little this week and could be around 298."
Q: What's the most you've ever weighed?
A: "I weighed about 360 when I was in eighth and ninth grade. I started dropping weight my 10th grade year. My 11th grade year I was down to about 340 and my senior year I got down to about 305 or 300."
Q: So who decided that "Tiny" would be a good nickname for you?
A: "When I moved to Houston from California, my new AAU coach gave me that name. Back then I was about 6-foot-6 and 360 pounds. We had a lot of point guards on our team and he wanted to trick everybody who looked on the Web site into thinking that we had another point guard joining the team. When everybody saw me they realized pretty quickly I wasn't another point guard. Since then the name has stuck."
Q: Do you prefer to be called "Keith" or "Tiny?"
Q: What are you most excited about for your freshman year?
A: "I just want to prove a lot of people wrong. A lot of people are saying that because Blake isn't here anymore that Oklahoma isn't going to be as good as it was. I want to prove those people wrong."
Q: What's your best basketball memory?
A: "My last AAU tournament I had about 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game. That was really good for me."
Q: What about the McDonald's All-American Game when you led all scorers with 20 points?
A: "Yeah, I was really pleased with that. Coming off the bench, I just came with a good attitude and wanted to win. I didn't go out there with a scoring mentality, but I was so hot, felt good about myself and kept a smile on my face. I ran the floor better than just about any of the big men. I just went with the flow."
Q: Do you always play with a smile on your face?
A: "I really only do that when I'm in the zone or when we're up by about 20. Other than that I play with a regular face."
Q: You hit an NBA-range 3-pointer in the McDonald's Game. Do you consider the outside shot as a weapon?
A: "Yes. Against a 2-3 zone -- we did that last year in a game at the Hoop Classic. Coach Smith said to me, 'I want you to score.' I couldn't go down low because there were always three people on me, so I was like, 'OK, what can I do?' So I went out and shot a 3-pointer and made it. Then I shot another and made it again. After halftime I came out and hit like four in a row that put us up by about 12. I finished 6-for-9 on 3-pointers that game."
Q: Switching gears to the NBA Draft, if you're the general manager of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who do you take as the No. 3 pick on Thursday?
A: "I think that team needs a true, true point guard. I mean Russell Westbrook is a good point guard, but if it's me I'm taking Brandon Jennings. If they put him at the point I think they'd have a really good team. I just like Brandon's game. He can pass the ball and score it."