It’s an odd time in Norman right now. A true spring break. Oklahoma spring football doesn’t start until next week. And OU basketball, for the first time in five years, isn’t dancing.
Don’t expect that to become a common thing. There are more signs of this being a one-year anomaly for Lon Kruger and company than becoming a growing concern.
There were signs up and down the last couple of weeks. A senior day where you realize C.J. Cole and Daniel Harper were the only two seniors playing being honored since Jordan Woodard was injured.
An end of the year banquet where the team’s MVP was freshman Kameron McGusty and the most improved was sophomore Rashard Odomes.
Yes, 2016-17 might have been a chore for some fans to sit through, but they’ll reap the rewards if they head back to Lloyd Noble Center next season.
On paper, everybody is coming back. You never know if transfers become a part of the equation, but as of now, the entire team is coming back.
A team that went 3-4 in its final seven games, learning to play without Woodard after he tore his ACL at Iowa State.
A team that did suffer the first 20-loss season in OU history but with 10 of those losses by six points or less or in overtime.
OU’s 11-20 mark isn’t deceiving, but a year of growing pains can often lead to prosperity. It’s said you have to learn how to win, and the Sooners had to do just that in 2016-17.
Combine all the talent coming back with two Scout 100 prospects coming to Norman, and yes, there are reasons to smile.
A lot of the hype (justifiably so) is on OU earning the commitment of Norman (Okla.) North point guard Trae Young last month.
Young, a five-star prospect ranked No. 21 in the Scout 100, cannot sign for another month although it does appear there is no reason to worry for the Sooners.
But don’t forget about Harrah (Okla.) High’s Brady Manek. Ranked No. 96 in the Scout 100, Manek averaged more than 25 points and 11 rebounds and closed out his career with 1,901 points.
Manek, at 6-foot-8 or so, is someone who is going to stretch out defenses. Just as comfortable on the perimeter as he is in the post, Manek has the ability to make the outside shot and the ball-handling skills to drive the basket.
Young’s game has been dissected so much that it’s hard to say anything new. He can do just about everything possible on a basketball court. The high school version of Stephen Curry seems outlandish to say until you actually watch Young.
Watch the way he attacks the game. Watch the way he uses his intelligence to figure out if it’s a game where he needs to score 50 or more points or a game where 30 points, 10 assists is going to be the answer.
Young is only the ninth player from the state to earn McDonald’s All-American honors and his ability should create easier shots across the board.
One of OU’s biggest problems this season was getting into an offensive flow. Too many times the ball movement wasn’t crisp and the assists-to-turnovers numbers show that with OU committing nearly 100 more turnovers than assists.
That won’t happen with Young, not with his court vision. Young can create for himself, but he can just as easily makes shot a lot easier for guys like McGusty, like Kristian Doolittle, like getting the ball into the post for Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace.
You look at a starting five of potentially Young, McGusty, Odomes, Doolittle and Lattin with guys like Jordan Shepherd, Christian James, Jamuni McNeace, Manek and Dante Buford coming off the bench, and you start to smile just a little bit more.
It became a tired saying in the last month about how the future is bright for OU basketball. But you know what? It is. It absolutely is.