One-on-one with Jeff Capel

OUInsider.com talks with OU's head coach about last year's disappointing finish and the future ahead.

There have been a lot of questions asked recently about the OU Men's Basketball program, and recently I had a chance to sit down and go one-on-one with Sooner Head Coach Jeff Capel.

JH: Was it frustrating to watch the NCAA Tournament and not be in it this year? Or did the fact that you didn't make into the tournament just fire you up more for recruiting?

JC: "You couldn't help but notice the tournament because it was all over the place. Any time you turned on a TV or read a paper or magazine, you could feel the excitement from the tournament. However, I challenged our team to watch it and pay attention to it. I wanted to challenge them to strive to get there and not only get there, but to be talented enough and prepared enough to where we can get there and advance.

"Recruiting is an on-going thing. We have to be careful with our days. We only have very few (recruiting visits) left because of the reduction from our sanctions given to us. Filling six scholarships has been a lot of work, which I love because I love recruiting. From now until April 30, we only have a few days left where we can go out and recruit, and we have two official visits that we can still give. So we have to be really careful what we do with our days and our visits, but we are still recruiting every day."

JH: Now that your first year at OU is behind you, what do you feel you have established about your program that will carry over to year two?

JC: "I think, first and foremost, it is what we are able to do defensively. Coming into the season I wasn't sure what kind of defensive team we would be. As we started practicing and we got into certain defensive drills, I just wasn't really sure. I knew that I wasn't probably going to have a problem getting these guys to play hard because that was something they were accustomed to doing. Going back and watching tape, last year's Oklahoma team played a lot of zone. They played a lot of 2-3 zone and I knew that we were going to utilize that some this year, but I am primarily a man-to-man defensive coach. So our team this year really exceeded my expectations of what we could do defensively.

"We only gave up 59 points per game. Someone mentioned this to me, and I am not sure how true this is, that was the lowest point total that teams averaged against OU in the last 25 to 30 years. We also held our opponents' field goal percentage down very low, so I think we were able to establish ourselves on the defensive end in what we want to do and how we want to play. We weren't able to pick and pressure as much as I would like to in the future because of our lack of depth and athleticism, but I did think we were a pretty good defensive team.

"We weren't able to do anything offensively that I would like to do as we move forward in this program, because of lack of depth and lack of depth at certain positions. Offensively is where we really struggled this year. I don't think we struggled getting shots, but we struggled making shots. So that is something that we have to improve on as we move forward."

JH: Did you feel you got everything that you wanted out of your staff and out of yourself this first year?

JC: "I think so, I really think so. I thought we worked we worked diligently every day and we came together as a staff. Myself and Mark Cline obviously had been together. Ben Betts had worked with me before so he was familiar, but everybody else was new and so it took a while to get the staff to mesh and to figure out the strengths of each guy. One thing about our staff is that we have men of great character. That helps any time that you can have a staff like that. I also think that we have a really good mixture of guys who really know basketball, and who I also think are really good recruiters.

"Sometimes you find in this business that there are guys who are just really good recruiters, because that is all they really want to do. They want to be on the phone and be on the text and call high school coaches and things like that, but when it comes down to really teaching the game of basketball that may not be a strength of theirs. I think I have the best of both worlds because my guys, my assistants and my staff No. 1 are very good in recruiting with their contacts and communication skills. But I think they are also tremendous teachers of all different areas of the game of basketball. As a young man looking for a school, I know that was important to me when I set out to chose a school. I chose a school (Duke) because I felt very comfortable with the assistants both on and off the court."

JH: What are your thoughts on the players you have returning for next season?

JC: "We have great hopes for them and we are very excited about them. Of course, we have a lot of work to do with them both individually and collectively. One thing people have to remember is that we didn't have Keith Clark for most of the year. He might have been our most talented basketball player last season. It really hurt our team when we lost him to an ACL tear. He has been rehabbing like crazy and I have no doubt that he will come back ready to play as a better athlete than he was before the injury.

"We will be a much better team with him back on the floor for us. Longar Longar had a very good year, especially when you consider it was really his first year to play any kind of consistent minutes in college. When Longar played well we played well. It is as simple as that. He was inconsistent, but he showed us and more importantly himself that he has skills, is a good player and if he will work on his strength and conditioning he can be an even better player for us next season.

"David Godbold was very good for us on the defensive end of the floor. He has a chance to be an even better player on both ends next year, but only if he will really work on it this offseason. Taylor Griffin got his first chance to earn major minutes and he showed us a lot of good things. Taylor plays very hard and he is a very good athlete. He needs to work hard this off-eason on his offensive game, because he has potential there.

"Tony Crocker was our best player early, but it hurt him he when started to hear he was our best player. At that point, he took some things for granted and he got away from what was making him really good. He stopped working on his game and that hurt his game. Towards the end of the year, he started working on his game again and he had positive results on the court. The hope is that he learned a lesson from last year. He knows he has the talent to be a very good player on this level, but he has to work on it and work hard on the little things that makes him a good player.

"Bobby Maze and Austin Johnson had to play positions they had never played before and at times they played the point very well. At the same time, at times they struggled with it. But you would expect that with guys who are playing new positions. We feel very good about both of those guys coming back next season. If they take what they learned this year and work on those aspects of the game this offseason, then both of them will be better players."

JH: What can you tell us about the four athletes that you have signed so far?

JC: "I can tell you they are quality young men, who are extremely talented both on and off the court. They are winners who were key players in winning programs. Blake Griffin has played on a state championship team and one of the best teams in the state of Oklahoma for three years. Tony Neysmith played on and was one of the key players on the best team in Atlanta, which is a very talented area for basketball. Chris Early played on one of the better teams in the country and Cade Davis played one of the best teams in Oklahoma, and on one of the best AAU teams in the country with Blake. All four of those players will have a major impact on our program next year and we are excited to have all four of them."


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