Men's Basketball Meets Big 12 Media

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

Oct. 23, 2008

NORMAN, Okla. - College basketball season is near.

Jeff Capel and three members of his OU men's basketball team made the short drive to Oklahoma City for Big 12 Media Day on Thursday morning.  Meeting with more than 200 members of the media for almost four hours, Capel, Austin Johnson, Taylor Griffin and Preseason-Big-12-Player-of-the-Year Blake Griffin talked about 2008-09 expectations and the Big 12 race, among many other topics.  Quotes and video are below.

The foursome then returned to Norman for an afternoon practice in preparation for the fast-approaching season.  The Sooners, picked to finish No. 1 in the Big 12 in a poll of the league's head coaches, play home exhibition games Nov. 5 and 8 before opening the regular season Nov. 14 at home against American.

  Head Coach Jeff Capel

On being picked preseason No. 1 in the Big 12:
"I don't really think about it.  It's exciting for our guys and for our fans.  It gives people a lot of stuff to talk about.  We feel like we have a chance to be one of the better teams in our league, but right now everyone is on a level playing field.  We will try to get better each day.  We have had expectations for this program ever since I got here.  We have really tried to control external expectations and not get caught up in all that.  One thing I talk to our guys about all the time is that I hope they all have high expectations for the rest of their lives.  This experience will help all of our guys."

Video  Capel Press Conference Video
Photos  Photo Gallery

"We are going to take care of us and concentrate on the things we can control.  The things we can't control, we just need to leave alone.  Let's focus on us, try to be the best team we can be and worry about being great teammates.  And if we play as hard as we can, we have a chance to be really good."

On the league race being wide open this year:
"I think so, that is why these preseason rankings don't mean a whole lot.  I do think that it is wide open.  Texas has four starters back.  Last time they lost a guy and people didn't think they would be as good was (when they lost Kevin) Durant.  Everyone asked how they would replace him and they come back and they were better.  Kansas still has some talented guys and Baylor is as talented as anyone in our league.  Texas A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma State has some really talented players.  You never know what is going to happen during a season. We have tried to concentrate on trying to get better each day.  We feel if we do that at a high level then we will earn the right to be a really good team."

On when he knew Blake Griffin would become an elite player:
"We knew as a coaching staff when we went to Canada early last year.  I remember one of our first games I was sitting on the bench and he made a great play.  I turned to one of my assistants and said, 'We could lose Blake this year.'  That is when we first started to see that he could be one of those big-time guys." 

On if the preseason No. 1 ranking shows the progress his program is making:
"Externally, yeah.  We are happy to be ranked preseason No. 1 in the Big 12.  It is something to be very proud of, but I don't need that to know the progress that we are making.  I am involved with our program every day.  I know the progress that we are making on so many levels, such as recruiting and the fact that suddenly we're close to selling out student tickets.  We have already more than doubled what we sold last year.  The interest around town when I go to places, whether it's a restaurant or the grocery store, there is interest.  I know the progress we are making.  Last year was a huge jump by getting to the NCAA Tournament and making it to the second round.  So was the signing of a second consecutive All-American in Willie Warren.  Getting Blake to come back to school was huge.  We know the progress we are making.  The rankings are exciting for our fans, but also put a bulls-eye on our back."

On the addition of McDonald's All-American guard Willie Warren:
"He's a really talented kid and we're really happy to have him.  We haven't had a guy like him on the perimeter since I've been here.  So we have a guy now who can go and create a shot.  That's really great to have -- a guy who can get a shot anytime he wants to, or create a play.  I shouldn't say a 'shot.' I should say that can make a play.  Whether that's (getting) a shot for himself or creating something for someone else, he's a guy who can do that."

  Sophomore Blake Griffin

On what must happen for OU to be successful this year:
"I think we really need to buy into the team concept in order to play really well.  We need to continue to grow closer and really just play hard and not worry about personal goals, just focus on winning games."

On how the team will benefit from the addition of freshman Willie Warren:
"He's going to be great.  He's a scorer and that's what we need.  He can do it all.  Once he gets everything under control he will be a great player.  I feel like I am in a good position to have him on my team because he will open things up for me.  We can help each other out.  I will be able to learn from him and he can learn from me.  Last year, I didn't play with a player like him, not to take anything away from the players that were on the team.  He is just a different type of player and we can learn from each other and grow." 

On the lofty preseason rankings:
"I feel like last year we were one or two players away from being a great team.  With the addition of the new guys this year and the ones we have coming back that have improved, I think our goals become much more realistic." 

On how excited he is to begin the season:
"I am thrilled and looking forward to this year, it's going to be a lot of fun.  I'm ready to get these games started and get going.  I decided to return to Oklahoma because of the opportunity to play on a team like we have this year, to play with the new guys coming in.  I look forward to the expectations and fulfilling them.  I also have another chance to get a year under my belt and gain more experience and improve as a player and individual."


  Senior Austin Johnson

On the talent of this year's frontcourt:
"Blake is going to be great for us.  Ryan Wright is ready to play this year; he's doing great rebounding and running the floor.  Orlando Allen is solid and a big body.  He has gotten a ton better and lost a lot of weight.  Juan (Pattillo) is just an athlete.  He can run, jump, play good defense.  Kyle (Cannon) can step out and shoot it well for us, so teams are going to have to respect that."

On what Willie Warren can contribute to the team:
"He's going to be good.  He's a great player.  He and I can both play the one or two position, so if one of us starts hitting shots we can rotate, just whatever is needed to get the offense going.  I think it's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to him helping out a lot."

On if Warren can be the missing piece for this year's team:
"I think he really can be.  He is a strong, athletic guy.  He's a great person and I believe he can help us right away.  I am looking forward to mixing it up with him and our other guards, as well as our big guys.  We have a chance to be a special team."

On playing at a faster pace this year:
"We know we're going to want to run and push the ball and pick up (defensively) in full court and press a lot.  We're able to trust the guys coming off the bench this year.  We know the depth is good this year.  We know if we go all out and have to get a quick break that we can have someone come in and play solid for us.  Then when we get our wind back we can come back in."

  Senior Taylor Griffin

On what he worked on improving during the offseason:
"I've been really working on my shot and trying to become more versatile.  I'm trying to do different things so opposing teams can't just concentrate on one thing to stop me.  If they try to take one thing away I want to have something else I can go to and be able to score."

On what he notices in his brother Blake's shot that's different from last year:
"He's a lot more confident, he's a lot more consistent.  His little short-range, mid-range jumper from the side off the glass is looking really good.  He has a lot of confidence taking that and he doesn't hesitate.  If he's open he's going to shoot it, and he usually makes it.  He worked a lot on that over the summer."

On if he's looking forward to another season of sharing the court with his brother:
"Definitely, but I know I have a lot of work to do.  It is going to be fun being out there together for another year.  I have a lot to prove this year and it does give me something extra to work for.  At the same time, it's going to mean a lot more to me at the end of the year."

On the importance of fan support:
"It is always huge.  When we come out of that tunnel and the arena is filled, it gets the players excited.  It's going to mean a lot to us to have the students come out and support us this year, and they are going to contribute to the success we have at home."