Sampson says KSU better than record shows

OU head coach Kelvin Sampson talks about today's matchup against Kansas State, Michael Neal's hot shooting and signee Scottie Reynolds making the McDonald's All-American team. (AP Photo)

Below is a transcript of OU head coach Kelvin Sampson's interview with James Hale and Bob Barry Jr. Friday morning on the Sports Animal.

Sampson's Sooners [18-6, 9-4] will play Kansas State [14-10, 5-8] at 3 p.m. Saturday in Norman.

On Kansas State

Sampson: This is a team that's won at Kanas and clearly could've beaten Texas. So, their talent level is good. They've been snake-bit a little bit. They lost some games that they probably could've won.

They've had some games like Iowa State and Texas Tech. We could've lost both of those games, but we won them. They've had some games like that when they've just been a little bit unlucky. So, don't look at their record. This is a team that could be 8-4 in the league easily.

I love Cartier Martin, a 6-7, 220-pound player. He's not a three or a four, he's just a basketball player. They've got another kid their by the name of David Hoskins that's very similar to him. I think those are their two best players.

They had a time this year when they weren't playing real well, and every team goes through a period like that. But they're playing their best basketball right now so they'll be a handful for us on Saturday.

On OU signee Scottie Reynolds making the McDonald's All-American team and how that helps the program

Sampson: Even if he had not, I would've still been proud of him and happy for him. Damion James, pound for pound, may be the most talented kid we have coming in and he didn't make it. Damion James, I think, has a chance to be the best player in that class, but Scottie Reynolds made the McDonald's All-American team.

They both are going to be really good players. Keith Clark, Tony Crocker, Jeremy Mayfield, all those guys have a chance to have great careers. But we're certainly proud of Scottie. That's an honor for him.

I also understand the how the dynamics work in the selecting process. Scottie lives in a great area. He's on the East coast in Herndon, Va. He played DeMatha High School this year, he played Oak Hill, Montrose Christian, all of the big fifth-year prep school tournaments.

They played in the BeachBall Tournament. They beat the No. 7 ranked team in the nation, Mater Dei out of California, who has one of the top juniors in the country. Scottie's team beat his. I think he had 37 or 40 points that night.

So he's played really good against the best competition in the country this year.

On Reynolds being a great team player

Sampson: That's what he is. When you think about a point guard, you want your point guard to be vocal and have leadership skills.

You can't teach talent and you can't teach IQ, and I don't know that you can teach leadership either. And Scottie's bringing those things to the table.

On the two 1-point victories over Iowa State and Texas Tech

Sampson: Especially on the road. Ask Rick Barnes if he would've taken a 1-point win at Kansas State or O-State. I felt the same way about Texas Tech.

I think Texas Tech's playing their best basketball right now and to go into their gym in front of that crowd and win on the road, it was a huge win for us. When you win games like that you take confidence away from it.

Look at what the Iowa State game did for Michael Neal going Texas Tech. I hope that this does something for Kevin Bookout. He's been playing with a broken left hand. It still shows up as a hairline fracture on the X-rays, but it is healing. I hope Kevin gets some confidence from that game.

This is the time of year when you start wanting to hit that final stride and see if you can raise your game to just another level. Hopefully, winning these two 1-point games we can get some confidence from them.

On if he's had anybody shoot as well as Michael Neal recently

Sampson: He's certainly shooting it right now. You know how shooters are though. I don't want to jinx him too much.

The thing that I do appreciate about Mike is his achilles started to bother him so early in the year and shooters need to practice. The better shooter you are it seems like the more you need to practice. It's the chicken and the egg thing. He's there before practice starts working on his shooting, and once we finish in the main gym he goes to the practices gym pulls that gun out and has got that thing spitting shots at him.

I don't know how many shots he shoots after practice. I know that he works at his craft and that's usually a sign of a great shooter.

On Neal's hot streak

Sampson: Yeah, you want to keep feeding him. We've gone from running a lot of stuff primarily for Taj or Kevin, to now we're running a lot of stuff for Michael. I think it's made them all a little bit better.

Taj had 13 points and 13 rebounds the other night and somebody asked me was I pleased with his effort? Are you kidding me — 13 points and 13 rebounds? We're not talking about Shaq here now.

I think Taj is playing good. I thought he played good the second half against Iowa State and I thought he was a man the other night against Texas Tech. But Michael Neal is just doing some special things right now.

The highlight of this week for us has been the way Austin Johnson has practiced. If Austin can carry over to the game the he's practicing, because his ankle's getting better, that's just going to make us better.

On also having Oklahoma State on the horizon next Monday

Sampson: And they showed against Texas last Sunday how good they can be. This is an important homestand for us.

This is a chance for us to extend the winning streak and get some momentum going for that last game against Texas and on into the Big 12 Tournament.

On how many teams he thinks the Big 12 will get into the NCAA Tournament

Sampson: I think this year we will get four teams, and then there's some teams that can play their way in too. Colorado can certainly play their way in — Nebraska, Texas A&M.

Those three teams have a chance to play their way into the tournament. I would hope that all three of them go. All three have some work to do obviously, but they have a chance.

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