Big things are expected in 2005-06 from Oklahoma and senior forward Taj Gray.
Gray, who earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors last season after averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, has already been named the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year for a team already ranked No. 6 in the Coaches Top 25 Poll.
Gray and the Sooners will tip their exhibition season off Saturday night at the Lloyd Noble Center against Northeastern State, a Division II team from Tahlequah, Okla.
Earlier this week at Oklahoma media day, Gray talked about his preseason honors and this year's team.
On if this is the most talented team he's been a part of
Gray: This team has a lot of talent. In the end, if we continue to work hard and build our chemistry I think we can go a long ways.
On what are the strengths of the team
Gray: With this team, rebounding is definitely going to be one of our strongest things. These guys crashing the boards — David (Godbold), Nate Carter, Kevin (Bookout) — I think rebounding is definitely going to be a big part of our success this year.
On the young post players on the team
Gray: With each one of them it's something different. Taylor (Griffin) has come in as a freshman but he's so big and so strong. Longar — athleticism and being able to get on the court and be so smart and understand what's going on. With each person there's something different. Everyday at practice you get a different part of each person.
On developing post depth and replacing Johnnie Gilbert
Gray: I think it's kinda hard to replace somebody like Johnnie because he did so much for us. With Longar getting better, Nate coming in and being able to come inside-out as well, and Kevin and Taylor coming in — I think it's just going to give us more depth on the floor.
On playing for USA Basketball this summer
Gray: I went a lot of places. I had fun this summer. It was just a good chance to meet a lot of new guys, experience some new things — going to Argentina. I had lots of fun this summer.
On being the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year
Gray: I'm proud. I'm glad I got this accolade for myself, but with that I think it kinda puts a target on our team more than anything. Guys, especially in the Big 12, are going to want to come in and give us their best shot. So we just have to be prepared.
On overcoming the loss to Utah
Gray: It was a tough game. We had a hard time scoring. You can't control whether the ball goes in the basket or not. You just have to control your defense and your rebounding. I think everybody that was at that game, if they could, they want a second shot at that. But you can't do anything about that right now. You just have to focus on this season and just say we're not going to let that happen next time.
On if he thinks about his chances in the NBA draft
Gray: Yeah, I understand that it's not too far away. But I try to focus on what's going on now, which is this team and this season coming up. I'm just trying to stay more focused on that than future things going on.
Gray: "This team has a lot of talent"
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