NORMAN, Okla. — The OU Men's Basketball team is currently ranked 8th in the country and undefeated at 8-0 heading into Saturday's game against Jackson State. Nobody expected the Sooners to be this good this early, but with Kelvin Sampson as head coach the Sooners are now one of the top programs in the country. Coach Sampson agreed to sit down and go one-on-one with OUInsider.com on Thursday.
JH: Don't you think your start is about as good as you could ask for?
KS: "Obviously, there are probably 20 teams that could be in the top eight right now. So, I don't jump threw hoops because of where we are ranked. I think that we are improving and that we are not a finished product right now. I think the thing that surprises me the most is not that we have done it with so many young kids, but we have done it in spite of our injuries. We have great chemistry off the court with this team, but I still don't think we have great chemistry on the court because we just don't have a lot of time with our kids on the court at practice everyday.
"Kevin (Bookout) is out of practice or at least contact most days. With De'Angelo (Alexander), we have been real conservative with him and Jason Detrick has been out and that has left us with very little on court chemistry. That has affected our offense, but our defense is what traditionally our program has been strong in. Those areas are coming along, but offensively I think we can get a lot better, and that is why I say we have such a high ceiling.
"We are ranked eighth because everybody ahead of us has lost one. This time of year you don't get carried away with your rankings. I wouldn't be upset if I wasn't the team that wasn't ranked and I wouldn't be carried away with it if I was the team that was ranked."
JH: You've have had some time this week to rest some of those injuries with the players going through finals. Do you feel that by the time you play UConn that you will be healthy?
KS: "I think that everybody is going to play Saturday afternoon. The only reason that Kevin (Bookout) didn't play last Saturday was because he played 30-plus minutes against Purdue on a Thursday before our Saturday game. We only had a 24-hour window between games and we were playing a team that we felt like we needed to get an opportunity for Larry Turner and Brandon Foust to play more. Everybody will play Saturday. Then we don't play again until the 29th, and hopefully over that period we will get some people healthy so that we can play them in practice. Right now the only time I see our team completely is on game day. I don't ever seem at practice because we have to save our bullets for game days."
JH: Your young players seem to be playing very despite the injuries.
KS: "They are good players and they are smart kids too. They have adjusted to our system and they know how to play. They need to get a lot better. I am always on them about something. Even if they were playing great I would still find something to get on them about. They are easy kids to coach and they are high-character kids who want to do well.
"Our veterans have really carried us. Jason Detrick and Jabahri Brown were outstanding in the Michigan State game. Kevin Bookout had his best game against Purdue. De'Angelo has been really solid. (Drew) Lavender has been really solid and (Lawrence) McKenzie is going to bust out here pretty soon. He and Jaison Williams are our two best shooters and neither one of them has really shot the ball very good yet, but I know they will. Our two seniors — Jabahri and Jason — have provided good leadership for this team. I guess the thing that excites me is that our best basketball is ahead of us."
JH: You have said that a lot, and with that being the case what can you tell us about Saturday's opponent Jackson State?
KS: "They beat South Alabama and they won a road game at Montana. Anytime you win on the road in college basketball you have a good team. Sylvester Anderson is their new coach and he was the coach at Murray State. Remember they came in a beat us four or five years ago. Actually, that was the year we went to the Sweet 16. They have a good coach and good players, and they have two senior guards who are very quick and athletic.
"It is a game that at the end of finals week you just don't know what to expect. We have obviously been in the classroom getting ready for finals with final groups and we have been turning in papers. I am sure our kids are doing the right thing academically, but in exam week you run the risk and you just have to come ready to play and try to be as sharp as you can. We played Prairie View last Saturday and we play again this Saturday. And in between it has been all academics, so this game is a little scary for us."
One-On-One with Kelvin Sampson
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