Oklahoma Sooners begin preparation for fifth year under Lon Kruger

With high expectations, Oklahoma prepares for new season looking for a fifth starter

The Oklahoma Sooners opened practice Tuesday as Lon Krugerlooks to lead the Sooners back to the NCAA Tournament as one of the top seeds in the country.

The Sooners bring back four starters and begin the season on Nov. 17 against Memphis.

Here are three things to keep an eye on before tip-off against the Tigers:


1. Oklahoma still needs to settle on a fifth starter.

For the second year in a row, the Sooners return four starters to the lineup. Which means that for the second year in a row, Oklahoma has to figure out who its fifth starter will be. Last year, that wasn’t a question as long as TaShawn Thomas was declared eligible.

This season, sophomore Khadeem Lattin seems like the front-runner to win the job, but the Sooners will rely on a lot more depth.

“It’ll be by committee, if you will,” Kruger said. “It’s a deeper group. We don’t have the low-post presence of a TaShawn. . . . We’ve got good depth at that inside position.”

Junior college transfer Akolda Manyang sat out the first practice and is in the final stages of his recovery from a foot injury. Kruger expects him back in the next few days.

Redshirt freshmen Jamuni McNeace, 6-foot-10, and Dante Buford, who would be a stretch four, both rotated in at the post.

“We need to establish that,” Kruger said of maintaining an interior offense. “. . . We need to make sure we continue to do that and try to do it even a little more.”


2. The Sooners have more depth than last season.

The Sooners are clearly deeper in the frontcourt, with up to five players capable of playing as opposed to just three last season. They are more talented in the backcourt as well. Freshmen Christian James and Rashard Odomes, who has added 15 pounds of muscle in the summer, both rotated through with the first team units.

Buford and combo guard Dinjiyl Walker are two other options on the wing. Oklahoma has a chance to confidently go 10 deep this upcoming season.


3. Expectations are higher this year than ever before under Kruger.

With each passing year, Oklahoma has seen a jump in production. This year is no different after reaching the Big 12 Tournament semifinals and the Sweet 16.

That’s what Kruger wants.

“The guys have made progress every year,” Kruger said. “They’ve gotten better results every year. They understand how tough the next step is. You have to continue to be focused on getting better every day. . . . This is a group that understands that. I think their maturity will show in terms of playing each possession with a little more focus and a little more determination to get the result.”

That next step would have to include dethroning Kansas as the Big 12 champion as well as a run into the Elite Eight. Kruger hasn’t shied away from point that out to his team.

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“I know these guys will keep the bar high and keep working at it,” Kruger said.

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