Griffin Has OU Primed for a Big Year
Nov. 6, 2008
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Even when everyone else seemed to be questioning him, Blake Griffin saw the potential for something special at Oklahoma.
There was a young, new coach who seemed to know a lot about basketball. He knew the players better than those at other schools, with his older brother being one of them. It just felt right for him to stay close to home and play for the Sooners.
Now, others are starting to see what Griffin envisioned when he signed on to play for a program that was going through a coaching change and would have to suffer through NCAA sanctions. For the first time in the league's 13-year history, No. 12 Oklahoma is the preseason favorite to win the Big 12.
"A lot of people were telling me when I committed to Oklahoma, "Why did you commit to Oklahoma? Why didn't you want to go to a school like Duke or North Carolina or Florida or Kansas or something like that?"' said Griffin, a preseason AP All-American. "I told a lot of people, "Just wait. You'll see.'
"Now that we're in this position, it feels good."
It'll feel even better if Griffin turns that decision, and maybe an even bigger one to stick around for his sophomore year instead of heading to the NBA, into another gratifying season with the Sooners.
With Griffin deciding to come back, third-year coach Jeff Capel was able to lure McDonald's All-American guard Willie Warren to play alongside him. It'll be the first time Oklahoma has two alumni of the high-school All-Star game in its program at the same time, and that's the main reason for the lofty preseason hopes.
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"This is what I wanted to get into," said Griffin, who averaged 14.7 points and 9.1 rebounds last season as a freshman. "I didn't know how quickly it was going to happen or how fast things were going to happen. ... I was coming in to make my every year as good as possible. This just happened to be a year that we kind of took that extra step that really kind of pushed ourselves into the top."
Griffin spent his offseason working on his shot and preparing himself to better deal with the double-teams that came his way last season and will return again unless the Sooners can capitalize on them.
Warren could play a big role in that process. The combo guard is expected to provide a scoring threat from the perimeter and spend some time at the point, making the Sooners more dangerous from the outside in addition to Griffin's inside presence.
"I feel like I'm in a good position to have him on my team just because he'll open up things for me," Griffin said. "At the same time, we both help each other out. That's a big thing is being able to learn from guys. I'll be able to learn from him just because last year I didn't play with a player like him.
"Not taking anything away from the guys that we have on our team, but he's just a different type of player and I think we can both just learn from each other and grow."
Warren averaged 24.9 points and 4.7 assists on his way to the state championship in his senior year at North Crowley High School in Fort Worth, Texas.
He said he was attracted to Oklahoma because he thinks Capel had a comparable playing style during his career at Duke, and also because he wanted to play with Griffin and create "hopefully one of the best one-two punches in the country.
"That's what I'm hoping for. That's the main reason I came to Oklahoma," Warren said.
The window of success for Griffin and Warren may be a brief one. Just like he did after last season, Griffin will have a decision to make about his future when his sophomore year ends.
"I'm not thinking about that right now. It's not something that's important for me," Griffin said. "I'll make that decision at the end of the season, when we're done playing.
"Right now, my main focus and all my concentration is on our team and trying to win games and to really make our goals come true."