Engaged to the University of Tulsa for 14 months, Booker T. Washington basketball player Trey Phipps made a surprising breakup announcement July 21.
“I’d like to thank coach (Frank) Haith and the staff at TU for giving me an opportunity,” he tweeted, “but I feel that it’s best for me to re-open my recruitment and explore other options.”
Two days later, Phipps tweeted again: “Blessed to receive an offer from the University of Oklahoma!”
On Thursday, Phipps and his father, Booker T. Washington basketball coach Conley Phipps, were in Norman to meet with OU coach Lon Kruger.
By the end of the appointment, Trey Phipps had accepted Kruger’s offer and confirmed to the Tulsa World he now is committed to the Sooners.
Phipps erupted for a career-high 42 points during Booker T. Washington’s Class 6A championship victory over Putnam City North in March and ended his junior season with an 18.3-point scoring average. He followed with strong performances during AAU spring and summer tournaments.
Apparently, it was during those tournaments that Kruger’s interest escalated, and the result was a whirlwind romance of sorts.
Only 12 days after dissolving his TU commitment, Trey Phipps said he’ll sign with the Sooners — just like his dad did 35 years ago.
“Buddy Hield went to OU and got better every year,” Trey told the Tulsa World. “I know I can develop and get better at OU.
“I feel so motivated now. At start of the summer, I was making 400 shots a day. Now, it’s 600.”
The Golden Hurricane coaches were dealt a painful reminder verbal commitments are not binding. Basketball recruits may sign national letters of intent in November.
“Trey’s ultimate goal was always to play in a Power Five conference,” Conley Phipps explained. “Specifically, the Big 12.
“TU was a great opportunity and a chance to play for Coach Haith in an unbelievable conference. But I think Trey felt like he played well enough this spring and summer that it might open some doors.”
Trey’s Booker T. backcourt mate, Bryce Thompson, is among the highest-rated guards in the national class of 2020. While Thompson considers offers from several schools — including TU, Oklahoma State, OU, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Michigan State and North Carolina — Trey Phipps seems to have concluded his recruiting process.
Since Kruger hired assistant coach Pooh Williamson in June, OU’s position in the Thompson picture might have become more prominent. Williamson has a deep-rooted connection to the Thompson family.
Rod Thompson, Bryce’s father, and Williamson have been close friends since they were kids in Beggs. In 1991-95, Williamson was a TU point guard. In 1995-98, his successor was Rod Thompson.
Trey’s Golden Hurricane commitment was announced in May 2018, near the end of his sophomore year at Booker T. Washington.
Conley said when Trey was considering a separation from TU, there was no indication OU or any other Power Five program was on standby with an offer.
“Trey looked at me and said, ‘Dad, I want to play at a Power Five school. I’m betting on myself,’” Conley recalled. “He had belief in himself, and here we are.”
A scoring phenom at Cleveland (Oklahoma) High School, Conley Phipps was a member of the Billy Tubbs-coached OU teams of 1984-85 and 1985-86.
“I was behind Tim McCalister and Anthony Bowie,” Conley recalls, “so I wasn’t getting very many minutes.”
Conley transferred to Northeastern State in Tahlequah. Ultimately, he commanded membership in NSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame. After the Hornets won the state championship in March, Conley received an almost immediate congratulatory call from Tubbs.
While Conley Phipps worked as a Scott Sutton assistant at Oral Roberts in 1999-2014, Trey learned to shoot in the Mabee Center practice gym. As a child, he was a fan of the Golden Eagles — and of the OU football and basketball teams.
During a recent AAU showcase in Atlanta, and while still committed to TU, Trey savored what Conley describes as one of the better weekends of his basketball life.
Trey and Bryce Thompson are teammates also with the Tulsa-based Playing With Purpose AAU squad. Such a combination of offensive firepower attracted an Atlanta audience of coaches that included Kruger, Haith, Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton, new Arkansas head man Eric Musselman, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kansas staff members.
“Trey played unbelievable for seven straight games,” Conley reports. “He was really good against great competition.”
The Atlanta trip was preceded by AAU tournaments in Chicago, New Jersey and Kansas City. By the end of the Under Armour circuit, Bryce Thompson was the leader among all scorers.
At 6-foot-1½ and 170 pounds, Trey Phipps was third in scoring while connecting on 56% of his 3-point attempts. By the end of his 42-point statement in the 6A finale, his stat line included 8-of-12 shooting on threes and a 14-of-15 performance at the foul line.
One day after pulling the plug on his TU commitment, Trey Phipps received a call from Kruger.
When you get a life-changing call, you remember details.
The Phipps-Kruger exchange — the scholarship-offer exchange — occurred as Phipps drove his Chevy truck southbound on Memorial, “between 111th and 101st — where there’s a Whataburger and Raising Cane’s and all of those good food places. That’s exactly where I was.
“At first I thought, ‘Did I just get an offer?’ And then it was relief. OU is where I wanted to be.”
After his son’s July 22 talk with Kruger, Conley said, “the decision was 99.9% made.”
The Thursday trip to Norman was mostly a formality as Trey Phipps finalized his quest to play for the Sooners.
“Trey’s dream was to play at the University of Oklahoma, so this is a dream come true for him,” Conley Phipps said. “Good things happen for people when they work hard, right? Sometimes, you’ve got to take a chance.”