Deeper, more athletic OU basketball team looks to play uptempo
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2012
10/21/12 at 6:05 AM
NORMAN - There came a point during Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage where Oklahoma showed exactly how it wanted to play this season, beginning when Amath M'Baye rose for a defensive rebound and zipped an outlet pass to Steven Pledger.
"Good!" coach Lon Kruger yelled from the bench. "Now finish it!"
Finish Pledger did. He caught M'Baye's outlet and attacked immediately, swooping to the basket from the right wing before laying it in with his right hand.
This is a deeper Sooners team than Kruger's first bunch a year ago. It is their most athletic since Willie Warren, Juan Pattillo and Blake and Taylor Griffin soared to an Elite Eight appearance in 2009.
It stands to reason the Sooners want to play faster than they did last season.
"A lot faster," Andrew Fitzgerald confirmed.
"A lot faster," Pledger echoed. "We've got more bodies. We can exert ourselves more."
M'Baye is now aboard after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer policy. He and Cameron Clark are OU's most explosive players.
Freshman guards Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Je'lon Hornbeak join Pledger, M'Baye, Clark, Sam Grooms and Tyler Neal around the perimeter. Three rookies were occasionally out of control Saturday, but you could also see their influence.
"The three as a group bring athletic ability, good ranginess, good activity defensively, enthusiasm," Kruger said. "They love to play, love to compete. Just tremendous upside."
Hield scored 16 points in the scrimmage. Cousins chalked up 10. Hornbeak hit a pair of 3-pointers.
It wasn't so much that they scored, though. It was that they ran.
"I think we'll have more speed coming out of the backcourt," Kruger said, "more ability to push it."
That generally wasn't the case a year ago. Kruger tightened his rotation as the season wore on, by necessity. The Sooners went 1-8 in February and 3-11 over their last 14 games.
Several players showed up Saturday.
" 'Ro' did a lot of good things," Kruger said of forward Romero Osby, who put up 24 points and eight rebounds. "I thought Tyler Neal did a lot of good things. I thought the three freshman guards did some good things as a group."
Neal had nine points and four rebounds. Clark had 13 and 11. Pledger scored eight points behind a pair of 3s.
There was plenty of ugly, to be sure.
"A good reminder we've got to improve our habits, improve a lot of things," Kruger said. "But I'm still excited about this group."
If nothing else, they should be more exciting to watch.
Original Print Headline: Deeper Sooners look to play faster
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Lon Kruger: OU coach believes Sooner newcomers can help the team play more uptempo this season.