This is part two of a three part season preview for Oklahoma Sooners Men’s Basketball. Look here for part one and be on the lookout for part three, as well as constant coverage of Sooner basketball throughout the season here on isportsweb.com.
The Sooners roster has seen quite a few changes since the last time the team took the court. With the additions of incoming freshmen and transfer players, as well as the departure of a few players from the squad, the team is looking all-new to start the season. As if life in the current age of college basketball. Here’s a preview of the Sooners 2012-13 roster and what to look for when the team takes the court next season.
Casey Arent 6’10” 223 Sr. Center- In his first season out of junior college, Arent was nothing spectacular. He played in only 23 of the Sooner’s 31 games last season, and even then, mostly in a limited role. He averaged just 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Still, it’s hard to count out a guy who averaged a double-double in JUCO. This season, he hopes to see his role expand a little bit. Having had a year to adjust to the speed and style of D-I basketball, and having spent all offseason working, along with his teammates, on honing his skills, Arent could see his minutes increase. He likely won’t be a major factor, but when someone in the frontcourt needs a breather or is in foul trouble, it could be Arent who is the filler.
Projected Stats: 3.2 PPG 3.7 RPG 0.3 BPG
D.J. Bennett 6’8” 210 Jr. Forward- Bennett is the reason I say Arent could be that filler off the bench. The long, athletic forward joins the team from Indian Hills Community College this season, and has impressed so far in practice with his defensive abilities. Bennett, perhaps due to his 7-foot-4 wingspan, has a knack for blocking shots. In his sophomore season at junior college he rejected 1.7 shots per game. He will look to challenge Arent for minutes off the bench this season, as he tries to make a splash in the frontcourt rotation.
Projected Stats: 2.3 PPG 4.0 RPG 1.0 BPG
Cameron Clark 6’6” 208 Jr. Guard- This could be the year for Cameron Clark. Since the day he arrived in Norman as that highly-ranked high school recruit, people have been anticipating a breakout moment from the athletic guard. There have been glimpses of potential, but he seemed to lack the consistency needed to establish himself as a star. Now, entering his junior season, Clark appears to be in the prime position to capture that moment. He’s in his second year of Kruger’s system, and has worked steadily to develop his game this, adding weight this summer. Just from watching him in practice so far (Sooner practices are open to the public as well as streamed online), one can tell he is substantially improved. He has supposedly spent a significant amount of time in the offseason working on his jump shot, and a much smoother release is evidence of that. If this holds true and Clark finds a steady jumper, he could be a big scoring threat this season. Combine this with his athleticism and length on the defensive end, and he is a potential nightmare for opposing teams. Still, it remains a question of if, not when, all this will come together for Clark. He ended last season on a high note, scoring double figures in five of his final seven games, but will it carry over? Many question marks loom around the junior as the season approaches. Answers are just weeks away.
Projected Stats: 10.4 PPG 5.5 RPG 1.2 SPG
C.J. Cole 6’6” 225 Fr. Forward- Cole is a walk-on, but don’t be deceived, the guy can ball. He averaged a double-double (21.6 PPG and 16.6 RPG) in his final high school season, earning himself an invitation to walk-on to the Sooner squad this season. He likely won’t see much time on the court this year, but if all goes well, he could be a contributor down the road.
Projected Stats: 1.1 PPG 1.5 RPG
Isaiah Cousins 6’3” 182 Fr. Guard- Cousins is a New York native and he certainly plays the style. He is a perfect fit for Oklahoma’s system in that sense, and should find the fast-paced game employed by Kruger is already in his nature. He is a combo guard, with the ability to either score off the ball or run the offense, though he will likely be doing more of the latter. His flexibility will make him a key component off of the bench for the Sooners, and he should see some valuable minutes this season in a reserve role.
Projected Stats: 5.3 PPG 2.7 APG 0.5 SPG
Andrew Fitzgerald 6’8” 238 Sr. Forward- “Fitz” enters the season with a sense of ambiguity about what exactly his role will be on the team. With the emergence of Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye, it appears Fitzgerald, who has started the last two years at forward for the Sooners, is in danger of losing his starting position. If there’s one thing you can count on however, it’s his scoring touch. In his tenure with the Sooners, Fitzgerald has demonstrated the ability to score not just in the low post, but with a pretty looking mid-range jumper as well. His range makes him a difficult matchup for the opposing team, who may have to send a post player a little farther out on defense to defend Fitzgerald’s shot. He was consistent too, even when other Sooners seemed to be lacking in that respect. Fitzgerald looks to bring these qualities again this season, whether resuming his starting spot, or in a newfound reserve role.
Projected Stats: 10.8 PPG 5.0 RPG 0.5 SPG
James Fraschilla 5’10” 150 So. Guard- Son of ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, James will look to keep his role as “fan favorite”. You will likely only see him near the tail-end of blowouts, with the crowd cheering him on, anxiously awaiting the moment when little Fraschilla manages a bucket.
Projected Stats: 0.3 PPG 0.1 RPG
Sam Grooms 6’1” 203 Sr. Guard- Pierre Jackson is the best point guard in the Big 12, but it’s arguable that Grooms isn’t far behind. In fact, Grooms not only bested Jackson in both assists per contest and assist to turnover ratio from a season ago, he is also the league’s leading returner in both categories. His defense was pretty stellar too, and his quickness allowed him to stay with his man for the most part. It’s difficult to label any blemishes in Grooms’ game, but if you could, it would definitely be his shooting. Typically you want your point guards to looks to pass first then score, but with Grooms’ the ability to get buckets was almost nonexistent. He shot just 35% from the field last season and only 20% from three. Often times when left wide open, Grooms couldn’t even seize the opportunity, and defenses would sag off him a bit, focusing more on Steven Pledger, the Sooners main offensive threat. Last year however, Grooms needed to be a scoring option because the Sooners simply didn’t have a lot of them. This year, with several more scoring weapons added to the arsenal, Grooms will look to continue doing what he does best—distribute. If he does that, and slightly improves his shot, the Sooners are looking strong at the PG spot.
Projected Stats: 6.2 PPG 6.7 APG 1.1 SPG
Buddy Hield 6’3” 199 Fr. Guard- Hield, like the other two freshmen guards, will look to provide a spark off the bench this season. He is a pretty good shooter and is also athletic, allowing him get up and down the court quickly. He should have no trouble fitting into Kruger’s system in that respect. He has a scorer’s mentality and if I were to predict which of the freshmen would have the highest PPG average this season it would be Hield. He should provide an immediate impact for the Sooners and give them a nice scoring punch in about 10-15 minutes a game.
Projected Stats: 7.1 PPG 1.7 APG 0.8 SPG
Je’lon Hornbeak 6’3” 180 Fr. Guard- Like Cousins, Hornbeak is a combo guard and can play on the ball as a facilitator or off of it as a scorer. As of now, he is generally considered the most polished of the freshmen guards, with not only the skills, but the composure to contribute right away. Look for Hornbeak, along with the other guards, to help this team out a lot this season.
Projected Stats: 5.9 PPG 2.5 APG
Jarrod Kruger 6’1” 181 So. Guard- Nephew of Sooner coach Lon Kruger, the walk-on will likely find himself in a situation similar to Fraschilla’s, only seeing minutes in blowouts.
Projected Stats: 0.3 PPG 0.3 RPG
Amath M’Baye 6’9” 208 Jr. Forward- It’s hard to talk about the Sooners season without mentioning M’Baye. The versatile forward was all the talk on campus last year in his transfer season, and rightfully so. He could be the final piece needed to spark somewhat of a resurgence in the Oklahoma program. With the strength and height to play down low on the block, and the smooth shooting stroke to extend hims game out past the 3-point line, M’Baye will look to make an influence in a variety of ways this season. He’s extremely athletic, and there will be no shortage of electrifying plays on the offensive end. We’ll leave it at that. Defensively, his length and quickness will allow him to be a major factor, giving him the ability to guard multiple positions. I’m sure all this played a part in the Big 12 coach’s decision to vote him the conference’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year. It’s arguable that he is a future NBA draft pick as well; nbadraft.net certainly thinks so, projecting him as a second round pick in their most recent mock. M’Baye is a special talent, and should prove to be the Sooners best player this season. The impact that he could potentially have on this team is ineffable. If the Sooners make the tournament come March, it will be in large part due to Amath M’Baye. He’s that good.
Projected Stats: 13.6 PPG 7.1 RPG 1.3 BPG
Tyler Neal 6’7” 229 Jr. Forward- Neal’s biggest problem throughout his career as a Sooner has been consistency. He has the occasional outbreak; like his 18 point performance against Arkansas last season, but more often than not, he has been painfully quiet. Still, he has some three point shooting skills, and enough strength to play on the post if needed, so he has some promise in him. If he is able to find a rhythm, he could be a solid reserve for the Sooners.
Projected Stats: 5 PPG 3.2 RPG
Steve Noworyta 6’7” 200 Fr. Forward- See James Fraschilla and Jarrod Kruger.
Projected Stats: 0.1 PPG 0.3 RPG
Romero Osby 6’8” 232 Sr. Forward- This season it is M’Baye but last season it was Osby who was the transfer sensation. He was very active on the glass, leading the Sooners with 7.3 rebounds per outing, and attacked the rim offensively, where he chipped in 12.9 PPG. He also possesses a decent shooting stroke, with the range to hit the occasional three ball. This year, Osby will look to improve on that stellar season, taking on the role of the Sooners steady, aggressive, and physical beast in the post. Expect a fight for every rebound, a battle every loose ball, basically, just expect maximum effort on every play from Osby. There’s no question his presence will be felt in the paint this season.
Projected Stats: 13.1 PPG 7.7 RPG 1.4 BPG
Steven Pledger 6’4” 219 Sr. Guard- It will be hard to find a better shooter in the Big 12 than Steven Pledger. Pledger shot 42% from three a season ago, the second best percentage of all returners in the conference (only Brady Heslip’s 46% was better) and he shot 46% from the field. He can credit being the Sooners leading scorer (16.2 PPG) to these percentages. His only issue is that, at times, he is a step slow on defense, but his offense seems to stabilize this. He’s definitely not going to be the guy you assign to guard the star player on the opposing squad, but he has a scorer’s mindset, and if the Sooners are down by a bucket late, he’s definitely the guy you want taking the last shot. Overall, he will be one of the Sooners better players and should repeat as the leading scorer this season.
Projected Stats: 17.3 PPG 3.9 RPG 1.7 APG
Ryan Spangler (Redshirt) 6’8” 227 So. Forward- The Sooners snagged this Oklahoma-native from Gonzaga, after only one season with the Bulldogs. Spangler will look to use his redshirt season to fine tune his skills, and will be of use for the Sooners in the 2013-14 season. For now, he’ll have to make as much of an impact as he can in practice.
Projected Stats: 0 PPG 0 RPG 0 BPG (I have a feeling this one will be pretty accurate).
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