NORMAN, Okla. — The top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners held their final press conference this afternoon before departing for the East Regional finals in Albany, New York. Attending were seniors Quannas White, Hollis Price, Ebi Ere and Head Coach Kelvin Sampson.
Kelvin spoke about how all 16 teams remaining were very good: "Forget the seeds and the rankings. At this time of year they're meaningless. When you make it this far, and you're still playing, that means that out of 320 teams 304 are sitting at home. So this weekend every team playing is good. Good enough to beat anyone left. Gonzaga could have easily beat Arizona, so forget the seedings, the teams left standing have proven something."
About Butler, Sampson said; "they're a senior laden team that's won a collective total of over 100 games, 27 this year. They play as a team. Seniors usually play better than sophomores. When I watched the game Saturday there was no question that Butler was the better team, and Louisville was a four seed."
About Kevin Bookout's improvement since November. "He's ten times better. There's no way to prepare a kid coming from Stroud and playing Millwood to playing Alabama in Madison Square Garden for the first game of his career. Remember that at the time we hadn't even played two exhibition games. So he had no idea of what was going on that night, and we knew it. He was the only one surprised by it. And next year you'll see Kevin do more because we'll ask him to do more. Right now his game is from six feet in. Next year he'll probably work form 10-12 feet out and into the basket. By his junior and senior year he'll be doing some pretty amazing things."
Even with Bookout's sudden surge, Sampson admitted that OU was not as good as last year. "No, we are not as good a team as last year at this time. But that doesn't mean we can't win it all. We are good enough to win the next four. Sure it's a long shot for all 16 teams. But no one has a better chance than we do."
Quannas White and Hollis Price said the key to defending the expected Butler onslaught of three's was to defend penetration into the lane. "They penetrate and kick it back out. That's their game and they're every good at it.. But we know it's coming and we've got to work on that all week and we will." White said.
When asked if he could be close to 100% by Friday Price said; "I really don't know. Honestly, probably not, but at least we know it and there are things we can do about it. We've had several setbacks this month, Kevin's been sick, Ebi broke his wrist, other guys have been banged up and hurt, but we've found a way to overcome them as a team."
Sampson admitted that Price, normally OU's number one choice on most plays, was little more than a decoy against Cal, and that the Sooners were the only team to use the same day shoot-around last weekend. "We did that because we had to make sure everyone knew that Hollis was no longer the main man. Every one's role changed last week."
Regardless of the outcome this weekend, Kelvin said that this year's team was a dream team to coach: "We have no discipline problems on this team. Maybe the biggest thing on this team would be someone leaving their shirttail out, that's about as serious as it gets. This has been a very special group of kids and it kills me to think it's almost over."
Press Conference Notes
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