Next step is up to Hield

OU sophomore guard Buddy Hield made a big jump this season but still has more work to do in order to be a complete player.

It started to sound like a broken record during Oklahoma's basketball season. As sophomore guard Buddy Hield went so did the team.

When he was on, the Sooners were tough to knock off. But when he was off like at home against Texas Tech or against North Dakota State in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament, OU suffered upset losses.

It's incredibly unfair to put all the blame for OU's tournament stumble on Hield, but it's clear that even though he has made strides, there's still a lot of work to be done for Hield in Norman.

"Buddy is going to work a lot," coach Lon Kruger said. "He has already started. It's amazing because we haven't even started individual workouts and so many of them have been in here every day since the season ended."

The stats only tell part of the story. As a freshman, Hield averaged 7.8 points per game and shot a dismal 24 percent on his 3-point field goal attempts. He logged 679 minutes and started 13 games.

This season he was the iron man. He was on the floor for 1,059 minutes more than 140 more than the next closest player. He started all 33 games and averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game.

The knock on Hield was his outside shooting so he worked all last summer to improve on that. He did, shooting nearly 39 percent from 3-point territory. It might have come at the expense of what made Hield so dynamic as a freshman.

"Buddy became a stand-still shooter when the year before he was much more of a slasher, much more aggressive on the offensive boards," Kruger said. "So we need to combine the two. Buddy has to be a lot more physical, he's got to attack."

The proof is in the numbers. Despite easily leading the team in scoring, Hield only attempted 84 free throws in 33 games. That comes out to less than three attempts per contest.

When he got to the line, he made it count, shooting 75 percent from the line. But all of the other four starters shot significantly more attempts than Hield. Freshman Jordan Woodard shot an astonishing 188 attempts, displaying his aggressive nature.

It's a tough line to balance. Because OU is going to need Hield to get to the free throw line more, but it's also possible that his body won't be able to sustain going to the rim over and over and all the contact that is going to come with that.

"Working through contact, finishing through contact, getting to the free throw line a lot more," Kruger said. "Buddy became a guy who didn't shoot many free throws. We need him to get to the line, be more aggressive in earning his way to the line more than he was this year."

Hield was second-team all-Big 12, the only OU player to earn that honor. But there's no reason Hield can't make the first team next season. His performance, his work ethic will say a lot about where OU is headed in the fourth season under Kruger.

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