OU Head Men's Basketball Coach Jeff Capel has been on the job now for close to a month and already he has hired two assistant coaches, released three of the five signees that were signed by the former staff and he has been incredibly busy trying to piece together a recruiting class for 2006, while also earning the first verbal commitment of his tenure at OU from Elk City guard Cade Davis for the 2007 class.
But his hiring has been somewhat controversial mainly because of his age (31) and the fact that it appears that he is not going to be able to hold what looked to be the best recruiting class in the Sampson era.
Capel has had to battle numerous obstacles in trying to hold that class, but in many ways he has been fighting a losing battle from the beginning. It was class that, for the most part, had signed to play for Sampson and not OU, and that is never a good thing for a new coach.
One thing that is for sure and that is Capel is a competitor. In a recent radio interview, he explained the recruiting situation and his feelings on the criticism that has come his way early in his career at OU.
"I don't worry about controversy, because that is people's opinions," said Capel. "I know what is going on in our program. I am here and I am living it, so what people are saying is controversy is not to me. It has been difficult, but it is what it is. I was hired on Tuesday April 11th and was I able to go out on the road for the first day on Friday April 14th.
"With that, I had 16 days remaining in the month for recruiting with the last day being April 30th. Out of those 16 days, I only had five days where I could go out because of the previous penalties and self-imposed sanctions with the previous staff. Out of those five days we had five guys who were signed, and I really wanted to get out and see those guys. That was the most important thing for me."
"Fortunately, here at OU we have resources and I was able to go out and see all of those guys in a two-day period," Capel continued. "I just used up two days and I wanted to be able to leave a couple more days where I could go out and start recruiting for the future. I wanted to start recruiting some juniors. We have some really good juniors here in the state to really get out there. I thought was important for me, being the new head coach at Oklahoma, to get out there to two of these big AAU Tournaments where some of our primary junior targets were going to be. So, I did that and I wanted to have one day left over out of the five where I could just kind of play around and go see whoever it is that I wanted to see. So that is what it is. There is no controversy to that. That was the set of cards that I was dealt with."
Thus faced with no time to really recruit and no time to get to know the five signees, Capel did all he could do with the limited time that he had.
"I tried to make the most out of it," Capel said. "I had great meetings with all five guys that had signed. I was able to visit them and in some instances with their families, and I will tell you that every visit went well while I was there. I felt really good about it when I left. Every kid that I met with, I had already started the relationship with them on the phone and through text messaging the week prior to meeting them. They were all great conversations.
"When I went and met them, for the most part, each guy was a little hesitant. Well, not all of them because Keith Clark wasn't. He was great initially. Tony Crocker wasn't. He was great initially. However, the other three guys were a little bit hesitant initially when I met face-to-face with them, but by the time I ended that conversation with each guy at the end of my visit, they were hugging me and they were telling me how much they couldn't wait to come to OU. They were saying that they couldn't wait until summer school was starting so that they could get started on what they wanted to do.
"Then a couple of days after that, all of a sudden I started to get different news," Capel continued. "Because of the lack of days that I had left, I couldn't get back out and see them as much as maybe I would have liked to if I would have had all my days. Since then we have released three guys, and once you release a guy he becomes recruitable again. So I am under some penalties with the self-imposed sanctions.
"Normally you can call seniors twice a week, but I can only call once a week. So when you have that there is only so much text messaging that you can do. With only one phone call a week you have to hope that they will call you back and hope that the relationship you thought that you developed in going to see them, being honest with them, and going to talk to them works out."
"I want all of them, but more importantly I want guys who want to be here and who have pride of wearing that jersey," Capel continued. "That is how we are going to win and that is how we are going to be successful. That is what I want our program to represent. We want our players to have tremendous pride being a part of the University of Oklahoma."
Davis becomes the first player to commit to wear that Sooner jersey under Capel. Guard Tony Crocker seems thrilled with the opportunity to play for Coach Capel at OU, and forward Keith Clark was born a Sooner and he is also thrilled with the opportunity to play for Coach Capel.
We know that he is drawing interest on the recruiting trail as well from point guard Marvin Kilgore (6-3) from Panola Junior College in Texas. Kilgore who has narrowed his choices down to OU and UTEP and is reportedly going to visit OU this weekend. Combo guard Bobby Maze (6-2) of Patterson Prep School in Lenior, N.C. said on Monday that he is leaning to OU with Wake Forrest, Illinois, Tennessee and Cincinnati also in the picture. He also says he hopes to visit this week.
Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-2 center from Cypress Community Christian School in Texas, has also emerged as a prospect for the Sooners. The Sooners got in on Thabeet, but since he really didn't have a frontrunner it may not make any difference. He is talking about visiting OU in a couple of weeks. Auburn, UConn, USC and Mississippi State are also being talked about when it comes to Thabeet.
The Sooners may receive some good news soon from 6-10 forward Hernol Hall from Lon Morris Junior College in Texas. Hall has asked for his release for Duquesne, which he expects to get. He has indicated recently if and when he is granted that release that he will sign with OU.
We also know that Capel and his assistant Mark Cline had a great visit with super junior Blake Griffin from Oklahoma Christian Academy, and that the Griffin family seems very impressed with the new Sooner staff.
Plus, McDonald's All-American point guard Scottie Reynolds told OUInsider.com recently that he OU was still on his list and OU still had a solid chance to sign him. Reynolds will visit Villanova this weekend and either Illinois, Wake Forest or Georgetown the following weekend.
Jeremy Mayfield (6-10) says he likes Coach Capel a lot that he is still considering OU, but it appears that he is now leaning to sign with South Florida. Does that make any sense?
It also doesn't appear that OU has much of a chance with Damion James unless Reynolds comes back into the fold. James is talking about Texas A&M and Texas at this time.
So far all is far from lost when it comes to OU hoops recruiting. Coach Capel may wind up with only two of the original five signees, but he has managed to get in some talented players still available, and he already has one talented junior on the books for 2007. Considering the circumstances this has not necessarily been a bad start for Coach Capel on his new Sooner career.