Sampson on Seniors: "I love these kids"

OU head coach Kelvin Sampson talks about seniors Taj Gray (above left), Terrell Everett (above right) and Kevin Bookout (above middle). The trio will play their final home game against Oklahoma State tonight. (AP Photo)

OU head coach Kelvin Sampson talked to James Hale Sunday afternoon about Senior Night, Bedlam and OU's recent streak of one-point wins.

Sampson's Sooners (19-6) will take on the Cowboys (15-13) in round two of Bedlam at 8 p.m. tonight inside the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.

On the seniors

Sampson: "They're three high-quality kids. That's one of the things we've always taken pride of in this program, is the high-quality kids.

"When you look at the senior classes we've had over the years, when I look at those teams, those championship banners, these NCAA banners, you think back to their senior year.

"Terrell, Taj and Kevin are as good of players as they are every bit as good of people. All three of them are great in their own way. They've invested a lot here.

"I've had some coaches tell me that they think Kevin's been here forever. Not to me.

"I still remember being in a bus in Kansas City for a shoot-around. Kevin's team just won a state championship and he called my cell phone to tell me about winning a state championship. That just seems like last week to me."

On Kevin Bookout

Sampson: "Kevin Bookout (laughs)'s just hard to describe him to people who don't know how good he is. He puts a face on this program because he's one of us. He's an Oklahoman. He really is an Oklahoman.

"He embodies and embraces everything that's good about college athletics and also about just being a good human being. I don't know that he's ever had a bad day.

"I'm not Catholic, but the first time I ever got on him I felt like I needed to go to confession. He just gets the kind of recaction from you.

"There's very few people you can look at and say that everybody likes him."

On Taj Gray

Sampson: "I call him 'Taj Mahal'. It's been a pleasure for me watching him develop because when you think about it, coming out of junior college he was just a power forward.

"It's been fun just to watch him blossom and just develop his overall game and get better."

On Terrell Everett

Sampson: "Terrell (laughs)...Terrell is a quiet assassin. He just does his business and does his work.

People that don't talk a lot, when they do talk people have a tendency to listen to them, and that's Terrell. He is the quietest leader that I think we've ever had here."

On senior night

Sampson: "It's always tough on senior night. I'm no different than most coaches.

"I love these kids. I love who they are, I love the investment they've made in our program and I'm sure our fans are going to come out tomorrow night and pay their respects to them."

On the seniors developing into leaders

Sampson: "They're all three different.

"Taj is a little more vocal of the three, but he's not nearly as vocal as some guys are. Taj is just a workhorse. He plays hard. Terrell is very quiet, but he's very efficient.

"And then Kevin. Kevin's going to graduate from OU this summer and then he'll have his fifth-year of eligibility next year in track. And then he'll work on his masters degree.

"All three of them will be successful. Taj and Terrell are graduating, not this year but next year.

"I know one thing, and I say this about most of the seniors we've had in here, but our program is better off because those three chose to come to Oklahoma.

On coaching in the Bedlam series

Sampson: "About 66 years ago, Ed Gallagher named it Bedlam. There's nothing like it.

"The Texas game is high-energy and the Kansas game is high-energy, and it's hard to be more intense in those games. We've been fortunate to have a lot of success against both those teams in Norman.

"But the O-State game, the thing that impresses me is how hard both teams play every single possession.

"The thing that's made this series unique is that both teams have usually been really good."

On the poise and confidence his team has played with in their three straight one-point wins

"That plus toughness. Team that are not tough do not win one-point games. We prefer them not to be one-point, but that's how well these other teams have played against us.

"We're very pleased and happy to be winning these games, and once the game's over we go back to look film and move to the next game."

On them getting everyone's best shot because of their ranking and history

Sampson: "I don't know if first-year kids understand that as much as the older kids, but this team's starting to learn it.

"Look at the difference against Texas Tech the first game versus the one in Lubbock. In Lubbock, they're just a different team. That's just a great win for us.

"The game against Kansas State...Texas was very fortunate to beat them just as we were fortunate to beat them.

"The league may not be as good as it was in past years at the top, but it's way better from the top down. Those teams like Kansas State, Colorado, Texas A&M, those are the teams that have really improved."

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