The 18th-ranked Oklahoma will host arch-rival Texas Saturday at 2:45 at the Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners are coming off a tough win at Texas A&M in a game in which the Sooners leading scorer Taj Gray did not score. OU went on to win that game in large part because of the play of captain and reserve post Johnnie Gilbert.
Playing on an injured foot, Gilbert provided great leadership on both ends of the floor and his post defense was tremendous. Despite not starting, Gilbert is still the leader on the Sooner basketball team, which is a testament to his outstanding effort and personality. Gilbert will play a key role for the Sooners when OU hosts Texas, and recently he sat down with OUInsider to talk about the Sooners' recent solid play.
JH: What a team win for the Sooners against Texas A&M?
JG: "Yeah, that was definitely a team win. Everybody contributed and everybody that stepped on the floor I thought did a great job playing their role. That game just shows how deep our bench is also."
JH: You and Jaison Williams are doing a great job as senior leaders, yet you don't start and Jaison is considered a role player. It looks like you are taking great pride in that?
JG: "Coach pulled me aside back in summer ball and told me that we didn't have that leadership that we had in the past from a star player, and he told me that I needed to be the leader of this team. So, I took it upon myself to be the leader this year and I am going to do what I can to make sure that we make it as far as we want to make it this year. I am just trying to be the best leader that I can be and have a fun senior year."
JH: You played on a broken foot against Texas A&M didn't you?
JG: "Yeah, my foot gets sore at times, and when I wake up in the morning it is real sore until I get to moving around. The more I move around the more it loosens up, but I have always played when I have been hurt or sick. There were several times last year that I was really sick or injured, and I think those experiences helped me out as far as getting through the Texas A&M game."
JH: In other words, when the whistle blows you are playing no matter what is wrong with you?
JG: "Yeah, I am always going to be ready to go with what I have no matter what that is."
JH: Are you sure the fact you wake up sore is not because you are getting old (laugh)? It seems like you have been at OU forever doesn't?
JG: "Yeah, I think it is because I am getting old. My teammates call me grandpa around here, so I understand that. I am still going to go in there and play hard."
JH: The coaches say that you are an outstanding post defender, but you are not the biggest post. How are you able to defend so well?
JG: "I give credit to all the coaches that I have had over the past years for teaching me the game and explaining things for me. I have to give credit to those guys because without them I would not have the knowledge on how to defend bigger guys."
JH: What is the secret to it?
JG: "Playing hard it he biggest key. If you go in and play hard then size really doesn't matter. Positioning is also a big key. In the post, it is all about angles and you're positioning against your opponent. You have to put yourself in a better position than your opponent to get a rebound and you have to get the right angles to get that. Your footwork is a key in the post because if you have good feet you can get proper position."
JH: "What will the Texas A&M victory do for this team down the road?
JG: "It will help is in the future when we go on the road and we are playing in a tough crowd because the Texas A&M fans were out in force and it was rowdy. That is what it is going to be like when we go on the road at Oklahoma State and Texas. That win over A&M will give us confidence that we can win anywhere on the road."
JH: You have to be jacked about the recent play of your guards?
JG: "I always knew those guys could play. I realize that our post players overshadow them a little this year, but I know they can always step up and make big shots. Lawrence (McKenzie) always did that in high school, he was our go-to guy. Drew Lavender did the same thing at his high school, and I see them do it every day playing in pick-up and in practice."
JH: Is the key to this team how well Drew Lavender plays at the point, because the last three games he has elevated his game and you have played pretty well?
JG: "There is no doubt that the point guard is the key because he is the guy that runs the team. I am the senior on this team, but I have told Drew that this is his team. Without him we are in trouble because if he doesn't go then we don't go."
JH: I know you love playing the Longhorns?
JG: "I love playing the Longhorns, but my record is only tied with them right now. I want to finish with a winning record against them. They always give us a good game and I have to make sure my team is ready to go."
JH: They will be without Tucker and Aldridge, but they still have good posts remaining on that team?
JG: "Texas always has great centers and they have always had great leaders in the post. James Thomas last year was an outstanding player and he was always tough to play against. This year I am confident that we are going to hold our own in the post."
JH: How important is it that you have a great crowd Saturday?
JG: "It is very important. The crowd gives you an advantage. If we have a great crowd, then I believe we will have a really good game."
Gilbert stepping up in leadership role
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