Sam Grooms ready to help OU when called upon
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
1/16/13 at 8:46 AM
NORMAN - Sam Grooms' basketball season includes a concussion, a sprained ankle and a sore Achilles'.
"It's been a difficult year," he said.
Most painful of all? Losing his starting job as Oklahoma's point guard.
It happened before the season began. Freshmen Isaiah Cousins and Je'lon Hornbeak replaced Grooms, who had the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big 12 Conference last year while starting all 31 games, but whose 35 percent shooting ranked ninth on his team.
"I was trying to figure out what I would do and how I would handle it," Grooms said of his demotion. "I talked to my mom consistently, just about every single day. She said, 'Tough times don't last, but tough people do.'
"I just stuck to it."
So the Sooners should thank Ora Grooms for Saturday's 77-68 victory over Oklahoma State. Her son contributed six points, three assists, clutch foul shooting and a calm presence in a season-high 27 minutes. OU, teetering midway through the second half, held on and scored its biggest result of the season.
The Sooners enter Wednesday's 7 p.m. game against Texas Tech 11-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12 standings. They are in every mock NCAA Tournament field on the Internet, thinking big as they lower their heads and plunge into the heart of their schedule.
Coach Lon Kruger is the single biggest reason behind this, because he has taken a team of 10 individual parts and patiently pieced it together. This includes Grooms, who after talking to his mother realized something very important.
"You've just got to believe that what you do is helpful to the team," he said. "Whenever you're called upon to do that, you've just got to do it."
What Grooms has done is help mentor Cousins, OU's starting point guard when the season began, and Hornbeak, who slid over to the point four games ago after Cousins struggled.
"Sam is always telling me things to look out for, and to work on your weaknesses, because they really exploit them in the Big 12," Hornbeak said.
As Grooms put it: "I've been through the wars already."
That's what made him so valuable in Bedlam. Hornbeak turned it over four times and was shaken by OSU's second-half press. Grooms played 15 minutes after halftime, passing out all three of his assists versus just one turnover.
Expect him to come to OU's rescue again before the season is over.
"Definitely," Grooms said. "However I can help I'm going to do it."
"Everyone wants to play more, and everyone wants to start. That's normal," Kruger said. "How you respond to that is important. Sam is doing a really good job of that."
He still leads the team with 32 assists. His shooting percentage is now 42. He is as spirited as ever, obvious after Monday's practice when he wrestled playfully with Hornbeak.
"He knows we still need him, no matter if he's starting or coming off the bench," Hornbeak said.
He wasn't sure of that initially. Then he talked to Mom, and she knew better.
"As bad as you think it is, it's never that bad. That's the biggest statement my mom tells me," Grooms said.
"She told me to get over the hump. It's not that serious. I'm still getting to play, just not the same role I played last year."
Texas Tech (8-6, 1-2 Big 12)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F ||Kravic ||6-11|| 9.5 ||4.9|
|F ||Tolbert ||6-7 ||8.4|| 5.9|
|G ||Hannahs ||6-4 ||6.4 ||0.8|
|G ||Gray|| 6-1 ||9.7 ||2.9*|
|G ||Williams|| 6-4 ||5.2 ||2.5|
Oklahoma (11-3, 2-0 Big 12)
|Ht. ||Pt.|| Reb.|
|F|| M’Baye ||6-9 ||10.0 ||5.8|
|F ||Osby ||6-8 ||13.5 ||6.3|
|G ||Hield ||6-3 ||8.9 ||4.4|
|G ||Pledger ||6-4|| 11.5|| 3.5|
|G ||Hornbeak ||6-3 ||6.2 ||2.7|
*assists per game
Vs. Texas Tech
7 p.m. Wednesday
Radio: KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: OU's Grooms ready when called upon
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
OU coach Lon Kruger talks with Sam Grooms last month in Norman. Grooms lost his starting spot this season. BRYAN TERRY / The Oklahoman