Sooners basketball not lacking leadership

OU basketball notebook, topped by the team's leadership.

None of them are seniors, but it’s obvious Oklahoma is not lacking in the leadership department for its basketball team.

OU brought juniors Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Buddy Hield for Big 12 media days Wednesday in Kansas City, and coach Lon Kruger was quick to point out how great the trio has been in the offseason and into practice.

“The leadership has been outstanding,” Kruger said. “They’ve done a great job in the offseason with their investment of time, and again, the leadership. They don’t just do it verbally. They do it with their actions and have been outstanding.”

Part of that reason is because of the experience all three received. OU was in an incredibly unique spot last season in being able to play the same starting lineup for every single game.

And with nobody really going through a huge slump or being injured, the experiences have really paid off for the Sooners, expected to be one of the top teams in the Big 12.

Woodard ready to make the leap

The trio was mentioned, but it could just as easily be a quartet as sophomore guard Jordan Woodard has been recognized for his development.

Woodard started every game as a freshman point guard. Suffered some ups and downs in conference play, especially with his shooting, but never got discouraged.

“As good of a freshman year he had, I think we’ll see a big jump going into his sophomore year from him,” Kruger said. “Typically, they make the biggest jump from freshman to sophomore year.

“He’s shooting the ball more consistently. He’s making good decisions. Again, he’s worked awfully hard in the summer and in fall in preparation for that.”

Both Hield and Spangler mentioned the bigger role Woodard has played during the offseason and the first couple of weeks of practice.

Hield improves from summer tour

It was a wild summer for Hield. He played for the national team for Bahamas, participated in both the Kevin Durant and LeBron James’ camps.

He got a lot of exposure, but he made a lot of improvement as well. It’s something Kruger said he has noticed Hield has brought with him this season.

“I thought as a freshman, Buddy was a little bit more aggressive in attacking the rim and going to the offensive boards,” Kruger said. “Last year a little more perimeter oriented and shot the ball and had a good year. I think we’ll see him combine the two and attack a little more off the dribble and make him more effective in shooting the ball.”

Hield said he was a little hesitant to drive to the hoop last year because of his foot injury he suffered as a freshman. He said that is no longer the case anymore, and he’s ready to be a lot more complete all-around player.

Waiting game for Thomas

Sounds like a broken record at this point, but Kruger expects to hear something regarding the eligibility of TaShawn Thomas soon.

What does soon mean? No idea.

“We kind of thought that the last 10 days or so, but really do it’s soon now,” Kruger said. “We feel like he’s a great kid, on course to graduate, done everything right. He’s represented well, and again, we’re hopeful of an additional eligibility.”

Thomas would take some of the lowpost load away from Spangler, but as of now, the no decision on Thomas hasn’t affected OU’s practices.

Kruger said if it gets a little bit later on, then obviously they’ll have to adjust to how they run things. Thomas transferred from Houston to OU during the spring.

Lattin, McNeace waiting in the wings

OU’s focus for the 2014 class was size, and the Sooners scored big, literally and figuratively, with Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin.

It’s tough to determine what their role will be on the team because of Thomas’ situation being up in the air, but Kruger likes what he’s seeing early.

“Two guys that are rangy and athletic,” Kruger said. “A lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. Great for them to come in and play every day in practice with Ryan, TaShawn, D.J. Bennett, three older guys that they’ll learn from every day. They’ve got great upside.”

Kruger said Lattin is a little more comfortable on the perimeter, while McNeace seems like a natural fit in the post.

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