The 2016 class is complete with five players, ranging from the No. 35 player in Kameron McGusty to an under-the-radar late addition in point guard Jordan Shepherd. Add in Matt Freeman, Kristian Doolittle and Darrion Strong and it’s the highest-rated class for Oklahoma under current coach Lon Kruger.
Sooners Illustrated wanted to learn more about the quintet – who they are, what they like and what fans can expect from all of them.
Who better to turn to than the coaches who have been around them for years?
Here are four things that Strong’s junior college coach at Coffeyville, Jay Herkelman, pointed out about the incoming transfer:
Strong had a unique daily ritual . . . He’d come by the office every single day, just at some point during the day, just to say hi. He just had that kind of confidence in our relationship. Sometimes, he’d sit there, and we’d talk a little bit about basketball. Sometimes, we’d talk about his family. Sometimes, we’d talk about things back in Chicago. It would just be different things. It would just be little, less than five-minutes conversations a lot of times. It was just a thing that he did every day. He’d walk over to my office then he’d walk over to the assistants office and say hi to them. That guy has got a personality and a confidence to him. He’s an enjoyable young man to be around.
Strong’s first impression wasn’t the best . . . My assistants and some other coaches, who were at the tournament that I knew, were telling me how good of a player he was. The next day, we talked to him. He was interested in joining our team. . . . I wasn’t overly impressed with him at that time, to be honest with you. The other coaches, a couple of them were former assistants of mine that had moved on, and some other Division-I coaches that were there were telling me how good of a player he was. That game, he just wasn’t overly impressive. I trusted my assistants and those coaches.
The focus stands out . . . He’s really good in practice. There are times when other guys just aren’t performing at the level they need to, and I needed to get after them a little bit. None of that stuff ever seemed to bother him. He’d go about his business. It’s not like he had blinders on or anything. He knew what was going on around him. Some kids, when they see it they might get distracted by it. It never did with him. Every day in practice, he was our hardest-working guy the last two years.
Strong can be instant offense . . . We’re playing Colby, and they are in a zone. He can’t make a shot. Early in the game, when I take him out in our normal rotation, I just kind of kid with him and say, ‘Hey, did you leave your jump shot at Allen County the other night’ – just kind trying to ease the pressure of the playoffs and relax him a little bit. It just passes. Still, he goes back into the game, and he’s struggling. We get into the last 10 minutes of the game, and I take him out for a little bit. And he’s just pissed. He doesn’t normally get like this. He’s really upset to the point that I have to grab on to him. I say, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re a big part of our success.’ He quit looking for his shot. I said, ‘I want you to really look for your shot.’ We were down. We’re the No. 1 seed and we’re down. He goes in, and in the last eight minutes of the game and five minutes of overtime, he scores 25 points. He couldn’t buy a shot early in the game. At that point, he’s like 1-for-10. . . . He hit one and had is confidence. He came down and hit a step-back. He hit another 3. All of a sudden, it was on. That’s what he’s capable of doing.