View transcripts and videos of Thursday's interviews; first exhibition game on Tuesday.
Oct. 29, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. - Just five days before its first competition against an outside opponent, the Oklahoma men's basketball team met with reporters at Lloyd Noble Center on Thursday during its annual local media day.
Jeff Capel's Sooners, who earlier in the day were slotted 16th in the season's initial ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, answered several questions regarding the severely changed roster and the squad's relative youth.
"Our guys have been working extremely hard in practice," said Capel. "We are a young team, but a talented team. They are working to get better every day and we have had some great practices. We have had some guys step up and be leaders for us, which is essential for such a young team. I am excited about the direction we are going and am really anxious to see us play against someone else, which we will do next Tuesday."
OU plays host to the University of British Columbia in an exhibition game Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. CST. The Sooners will open their 30-game regular season at home Saturday, Nov. 14 against Mount St. Mary's (time TBD).
Call the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) for ticket information, or click here.
|| Head Coach Jeff Capel
"First of all, I want to thank all of you for being here today for our annual media day. We are really excited about our season. Our guys have been working extremely hard in practice. We are a young team, but a talented team. They are working to get better every day and we have had some great practices. We have had some guys step up and be leaders for us, which is essential for such a young team. I am excited about the direction we are going and am really anxious to see us play against someone else, which we will do next Tuesday. I think we can be a really good basketball team this year."
On who the team's definite starters are at this point:
"Willie (Warren) and Tony Crocker would probably be our definite starters right now. The other three are up in the air, but I think that is a good thing. We have some guys that are right there, who are pushing for it. It's going to be determined by, No. 1, who knows our stuff and, No. 2, who knows what we are trying to accomplish -- who understands the significance of playing every possession and competing every possession, someone who can do the little things for us. That is going to be big for this team this year."
Capel Press Conference Video
On the development of sophomore guard Willie Warren:
"He is in a lot better shape. When you see him in his jersey you will see the difference in his body. I think he lost about 10 pounds, he looks more toned and defined. He was already strong but he looks different, he looks more mature. His game is that way. He is more explosive, he is more confident. He has always been confident, but he's even more so now because he knows it's his time and it's his team. I think he is going to have a heck of a year for us."
On junior guard Cade Davis:
On Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin at the point:
"Cade has been really good for us and he will be really good for us this year. He has been a guy that will take on whatever roll he needs to take on. We need him to be more consistent shooting the ball, but we also need him to be more consistent in leading. The bottom line is that Willie, Tony Crocker and Cade Davis are the guys that played the most minutes for us all season long. Cade was a double-figure guy for us as far as minutes are concerned. Those three guys in our backcourt, we will lean on them for experience and Cade has been to two NCAA tournaments and has been an integral part of both teams that have done that."
On freshman forward Tiny Gallon:
"He can pass it, he can score, he moves well for his size, he can guard and he has great hands. He could be a guy that can score for us, but again we need him to fill whatever role we need him to fill. He can do a lot for us this year. (Rebounding) is one of the things we need him to do, but we need him to be a good player and a good player does a lot of different things."
"They both can handle it and both of them will have the ball. Certainly we want the ball in Willie's hands a lot. That may not be bringing the ball up the floor, it may be getting him into something catching it on the wing. Willie is going to have the ball a lot and he is going to be a playmaker for us. Tommy can do that too. His ability to score gives us the versatility to put both of those guys on the floor together. I think they can be pretty difficult to guard together."
On the guards:
"Our guards are talented. That is the strength of our basketball team this year. We have talked about Willie and Tommy, but Steven Pledger has been really, really good for us. We talked about Cade earlier. Ray Willis has been very good in practice for us. He has matured a lot since last year. T.J. Franklin has been really good for us, as well as Ryan Randolph. We have a lot of different options and I haven't even mentioned (Tony) Crocker. I think Crock is going to have a really good senior year for us."
On the schedule:
"Our schedule is tough. We are playing against teams in our non-conference schedule that are picked to win or will be at the top of their conference. Mount Saint Mary's is either picked to win or be second in their league. They are a good team, a veteran team, have a really good backcourt returning and are well-coached. The game against VCU will be a tough game. They have one of the premier big guys in the country and one of the leading shot blockers who, as a junior, a lot of people are picking to be a lottery pick in next year's (NBA) draft in Larry Sanders. Arkansas, Arizona, Gonzaga at their place and UTEP in the All-College. We are at Utah, which will be another challenging game. It is a challenging schedule which will prepare us for our conference. Our league is going to be awfully tough this year so every year we want to have a tough non-conference schedule."
On guys taking on leadership:
"Most teams usually take on the dynamic of the best player or best players on the team. I have always felt that if you can have more than one leader within the team it helps you have better leadership. The two guys for us this year are Willie (Warren) and Tony Crocker. The bottom line is when you are a really good player, especially when you have been here for a year or three years in Tony's case, young guys look up to you. Just like when I went to college I looked up to the older guys in our program. They usually follow what you are going to do so there is a responsibility that comes along with being a good player."
On senior forward Ryan Wright and junior center Orlando Allen:
"Ryan (Wright) has done a really good job of getting himself in shape. He is prepared for this season. I think he had some great moments for us last year. We don't beat Texas A&M both times without Ryan Wright. We don't beat Utah without Ryan Wright and how he played. I think he is going to be very good for us this year. He is older, mature and in great shape. No one deserves it more than he does with all that he has been through and has put himself through for this moment. I also think the opportunity to play against Taylor Griffin and Blake Griffin (the last two years) helped. Orlando Allen made strides at the end of last year. He was a big force in the NCAA tournament for us and we need him to play well for us again this year."
On how practice is going:
|| Senior Guard Tony Crocker
"Things are going good. When everyone is playing hard it makes everything easier. People do what they're supposed to do and get things done that way. Also, the new guys, they don't really play too much like freshmen. So that's really going to help out a lot when you've got people who come in and right away can show maturity and not be nervous about playing in college."
On his impression of the freshmen:
"From what I've seen, they're the real deal. They're going to help out a lot after losing Blake (Griffin), Taylor (Griffin), Austin (Johnson) and Omar (Leary). That's going to help out a lot having those guys come in and play right away."
On stepping up his own defensive play:
"We have the post players that can defend down there. But if something happens and we have to go smaller it shouldn't be that bad because I like to bang with the big boys sometimes. It gets me hyped blocking a big man's shot or something and then going down. People feed off of that so it will be good for us."
On how his role has changed:
|| Senior Forward Ryan Wright
"I think this year I've had to become more of a leader. Just as one of the more experienced guys on the team, one of the older guys on the team. It's been more my role this year to be a leader and help the young guys come along and be that extra voice that they hear other than the coaches' voices. Because, you know, the coaches can't always be with us on the offseason. I think my role is definitely more of a leader this year as one of the older guys on the team."
On what his team expects of him:
"I feel like my expectations are to play my role on the team. And that's to do the dirty work, to run the floor, to rebound, to post up hard. I'm playing with really great guards and great perimeter players, so if I do all those things they're going to find me on the offensive end and they're going to dish me the ball. They're going to feed me the ball and I'll have opportunities to score."
On what he worked on in the offseason:
"I've been working on my ball handling. I feel that becoming a better ball handler just helps your overall game. It helps your feel for the ball and it helps your touch on offense. And I've also just been working on my body. I've just been putting on a little more weight and making sure I'm in the best shape possible to play extended minutes. So I think those two things are my biggest focuses in the off season."
On how he wants to be remembered:
"I want to be remembered as one of the guys who leads OU to a Final Four. That would be ideal, and that's my goal. We're working for that."
On his personal goals for the season:
|| Junior Cade Davis
"Specific goals I've made for myself are to shoot over a certain percentage from the 3-point line, just like Coach (Capel) said -- be more consistent. Stay above 40-45 percent. I'm trying to shoot high with my goals and just knock down shots when needed."
On how his role has changed from last season:
"I think I'll have more of a green light, more opportunities to shoot the ball. I'll still be trying to do the little things, do my role. Come in and play good defense and rebound. Just do little stuff to help us win games. But maybe shoot a little more just to get us shots and open up the perimeter for Willie (Warren) to drive on the inside for those post guys."
On what he worked on in the offseason:
"I'm really working on my ball handling and driving the ball. I showed glimpses of it (last year) but I didn't want to get too far out of my realm. I didn't want to try and force the game. But this year I'll see if I can create a little more."
On life as a walk-on:
|| Sophomore Guard T.J. Franklin
"It's really not as bad as some people might think because I just try to do anything and everything I can to help the team. That means being in the best shape, being as fast, as strong and as smart as I can on or off the court to prepare my teammates for certain situations. I try to be the best guard I can be. If I'm supposed to be (Kansas preseason All-American) Sherron Collins or somebody in practice, I try to be as close to them as I can. A lot of times I even forget I'm a walk-on, because everyone is so friendly and so close. That really helps everyone come together and be a good team. I just do my best to help."
On what he likes most about being on the OU team:
"I like the competitiveness. Every day it seems like you kind of go back and forth with rivals you're trying to go up against, like Willie (Warren) or Ray (Willis). Every day you're battling and it helps everyone on the team. I just love going to practice every day or doing anything to compete. I'm just a natural competitor."
On how OU's game has changed from last season:
|| Sophomore Guard Willie Warren
"We're going to be a lot quicker and there's going to be a lot more ball screens. We tried to run the floor last year, but I think running the floor is going to be a lot different this year than it was last year."
On what he worked on in the off season:
"Conditioning and weight. It's going to help me last longer in the later stretches of games when we have those overtime games like we did in New York against Purdue."
On how his role has changed:
"It's changed a lot. They're expecting a lot more of me this year. I'm going to have to be a leader and make a lot more plays this year than I did last year. Having experience always helps you. And I feel like making it to the Elite Eight, deep into the (NCAA) tournament, now I have a lot more experience."
On where he thinks there's room for improvement:
"How to manage a game. That's going to be key down the stretch. I know we're not going to blow everybody out. I know we have some tough games. Arizona here, Arkansas here. And if we're able to win by one or two points, that's just going to help us in the long run because you're not going to blow everybody out in the (NCAA) tournament. So winning these close games is going to help us in the long run."
On if he considers himself a different player than he was as a freshman:
|| Sophomore Guard Ray Willis
"Yes, just as far as playing experience, going against a guy like Blake Griffin last year, one of the nation's premier players, and this year against guards like Willie (Warren) and Tommy (Mason-Griffin) on a daily basis. It's made me better."
On if he's more comfortable on the court:
"It's that I know more of what to expect. Because I've been here a year, I'm more comfortable with the plays, knowing the system and knowing where to be at certain times. I think I'm more confident this year because of playing experience and just growing as a player."
On practices so far:
|| Freshman Forward Andrew Fitzgerald
"Practice is going well. Everybody's having a high intensity and playing hard. I'm really looking forward to a great season."
On filling the void of the players who left:
"There's really not a lot of pressure. We just have to come out ready to play and just be ready for any adversity or anything that's going to stop us from getting what we need, and that's a Big 12 Championship."
On what Coach Capel has been telling him:
|| Freshman Forward Tiny Gallon
"He already told me to focus on the little things because I've already got the big things. But rebounding. I did a lot of rebounding in high school, but I mean, now, since Blake (Griffin) is gone, that's a big area, and our thing right now is rebounding and defending. Right now, I'm not focusing on scoring because we've got a lot of scorers on the team. We've got big scorers like Willie Warren and Tommy (Mason-Griffin). So I'm just trying to do the little things to help the team."
On if he thinks the freshmen will make a big impact:
"I think we could because I've been playing with Tommy (Mason-Griffin) since the eighth grade and we beat a lot of teams. Tommy's a great point guard and I was playing inside. And now coming here and being with Willie Warren and adding another elite scorer, I think we're going to be real good."
On what he's been working on:
"Discipline. The big thing is being self-disciplined and keeping my weight down. But the basketball stuff, I love being on the court and it hasn't really been hard like that."
On why he came to OU:
|| Freshman Guard Tommy Mason-Griffin
"Coach Capel, well all the coaching staff, and I know a few guys on the team. I always wanted to play in the Big 12. I didn't want to go somewhere that was too far from home and it's just a program that's already established."
On playing with friend Tiny Gallon:
"Me and Tiny have been playing together for a little while now, so the chemistry is there."
On running a fast-paced offense:
"I'm excited. I like to just get in the paint and draw the defense to me and kick out or drop it off to my big man for easy layups."
On why he chose OU:
|| Freshman Guard Steven Pledger
"My decision was really based on how the team was going to be -- what the roster looked like and how the team was going to be together. So it was like a family, and that's what I really liked about OU."
On his role on the team:
"I see my role as coming up and shooting. I bring shooting to the table so I can stretch out the defense. I know they're not going to double up on Tiny [Gallon] because I know I'm on the court. So, if they double on Tiny I know I'm going to shoot it. And if they try to come on me, then Tiny will be open up in the paint."
On the transition from high school to college:
"It's supposed to be a big adjustment. But I really prepared myself during the summer time when I was at home working out. And when I came here I was already ready. It was an OK jump. The game got a little bit faster, but I've just got to get a little bit stronger. Practice is a lot more intense than it used to be. Practices are real hard."