There’s been a mantra passed down through the Edmond Memorial program for as long as Shane Cowherd has been the Bulldogs’ coach: One that emphasizes that summer practices and offseason workouts have to be as important as the final practice before the state championship.
He watched current Oklahoma point guard Jordan Woodard, who was a senior during Doolittle’s freshman season, do exactly that despite suffering a torn hamstring in the playoffs and still leading Edmond Memorial to a state title.
Now, Doolittle has to embrace it.
“It doesn’t matter if those things are passed on. If you don’t have the player capable of taking that message and then running with it, it doesn’t really matter” Cowherd said. “The good thing is that Kristian has that ability, and that command and that respect to make that happen.”
Doolittle is out not only to claim a Gold Ball, the award for an Oklahoma state championship, but he also wants to earn the title of ‘Best Player in the State’ – a goal he’s had for almost a year now.
To do that, he knows he has to produce every game.
The 6-foot-5 wing/post combo player was Oklahoma’s first commitment of the 2016 class and also its first to make his pledge official. He’ll be battling players like Iowa State commit Jakolby Long and SMU pledge Dashawn McDowell for the title of Oklahoma’s best in the 2016 class.
“To show that I’m the best player in the state I feel like I have to produce game in and game out, where I can’t have a bad game or anything like that,” Doolittle said.
His personal goal can be accomplished by embracing his team’s philosophy. Doolittle might not ask the question of his teammates every practice, but it’s always at least in the back of his mind.
“If this was our last practice or this was the state game, would this be acceptable?” Doolittle said the day he signed with Oklahoma in mid-November. “We haven’t been able to say yes, yet. We still have work to do.”
Cowherd wasted no time in calling Doolittle the most talented player in the state, somebody that draws attention from every opponent and constantly sees double and triple teams every game. But he wants to see maturity from the growingly more demonstrative Doolittle.
Some of that maturity is being selfish and realizing that by making plays for himself, Doolittle will in turn create openings – and plays – for his teammates.
“That aggressiveness, he’s kind of coming out of his baby shell,’ Cowherd said of the player that led 6-A in rebounding last year. “It’s kind of like watching a little chick hatch. He’s starting to see the game of basketball through a whole new set of eyes. That makes him really dangerous because he is a really talented young man.”
Doolittle said that it hasn’t hit him that he’s going through his final year. That might be because he hasn’t changed much of what he’s done for the past two years.
There won’t be much change moving forward either.
“It’s not over yet,” Doolittle said. “I’ve still got to still prove myself even though I just signed. I owe that to myself and to my family and to my team to keep working hard on everything.”
Other players to watch
Trae Young, 2017 point guard, Norman North – The Top-40 point guard who rankings sixth in the nation at the position is probably Oklahoma’s top target for the 2017 class. He has great range, vision and the ability to be a defensive stopper – even at 6-foot-1.
Brady Manek, 2017 forward, Harrah – Oklahoma’s first commit for the 2017 class, Manek is a wing/post combo player with great range and a 6-foot-7 frame that he’ll grow into in the next two years. He’s an elite scorer.
Ethan Chargois, 2017 center, Tulsa Union – The four-star post player cracked Scout’s Top-100 for the 2017 class in the latest rankings. He’s hearing mostly from in-state schools but at 6-7, 240, he could be a load inside.
Elijah Landrum, 2017 point guard, Tulsa Central – Believed by some to be the in-state, back-up choice to Young at point guard, Landrum is a three-star guard who is starting to draw interest from the big programs.
Trey Hopkins, 2018 forward, Carl Albert – The 6-foot-3 wing has explosiveness and plays well in the open court to catch Oklahoma’s interest. He holds an offer from Kansas State.
Keyshawn Embery, 2018 guard, Midwest City – Offered by Oklahoma State during the summer, Embery recently transferred for Midwest City, where he’ll face a step up in competition. The 6-foot-2 guard should develop into a solid D-I level player.
Jalen Crutchfield, 2018 forward, Norman North – The son of Oklahoma assistant coach Chris Crutchfield, Jalen can definitely shoot the basketball. He’s a solid defender and has taken an unofficial to Nebraska. He’s 6-2 now, but at 6-4, he could become a hot commodity.
Adokiye Iyaye, 2018 guard, Piedmont – A small-school player, Iyaye poured in 43 points in the state playoffs as a freshman last year and is still a bit of an unknown even in Oklahoma. The 6-foot-3 wing should make some noise this year.
Jaycson Bereal, 2018 forward, Holland Hall – Also a football player, Bereal has a 6-foot-6 frame as a sophomore. A few inches and a few pounds and he could be in for a real emergence.