NORMAN, Okla. – As fifth-ranked Oklahoma prepares for postseason play there might not be a player with a more important role than freshmen De'Angelo Alexander.
The plan this season was for Alexander to fill the role of the redshirted Jason Detrick and provide the Sooners with scoring and defense off the bench. But just when you thought the true freshmen from Midwest City was comfortable in his role, he was thrust into another one when he replaced the slumping Ebi Ere in the starting lineup.
And Alexander has stepped up over the Sooners' last five games, averaging almost nine points per contest.
"It's really nice, but it doesn't matter," said Alexander on starting. "I know I'm going to split time with Ebi and that's what the gameplan was anyway. If you think about it it's not just with Ebi, but with all the guards."
"I'm not intimidated in any way," said Alexander on going straight from the high school level and into the starting lineup of the fifth-ranked Sooners. "To be honest, I always thought I felt pretty comfortable. They do play at a faster level and there are better athletes at this level. I have had to raise my game and certainly play to my best level on every night."
Alexander is only averaging 6.6 points a game overall this season, but he has scored in double figures in five of the Sooners' 15 Big 12 games. In his last game, Alexander tied his career-highs with 15 points and seven rebounds in the Sooners' 76-51 win over Nebraska. Alexander was also key in Oklahoma's big win over Kansas in Norman, when he came of the bench to score 12 points and hit five crucial free throws down the stretch to help stave off a late Jayhawk run.
"I'm real proud of De'Angelo," said Oklahoma Head Coach Kelvin Sampson. "We knew we could redshirt Jason Detrick because we recruited De'Angelo. We knew what kind of player we were signing. We knew that he would be good enough as a freshmen to play at this level, and we thought he cold be playing like he is playing now, scoring in double digits, rebounding and making assists.
But Alexander has also impressed in the one area that will quickly get you on Sampson's teacher's pet list.
"I think the area we are surprised with is that he's a better defensive player then we thought he would be," said Sampson.
Sampson says Alexander will relinquish his starting role one last time to Ere this Saturday when the Sooners' host Texas this Saturday on Senior Day, but both agree that who starts isn't what's important right now.
"It doesn't matter to us which one we start because they're both going to play," said Sampson. "However, right now it seems that both De'Angelo and Ebi kind of like their roles. De'Angelo played played very well against A&M and Nebraska starting, and Ebi had one of his better games off the bench against the Aggies.
"Whatever's best for the team I will do," said Alexander. "As long as we win, that's all that matters."
And winning, regardless of who starts, is something every Sooner fan hopes to see more of this March.
Alexander stepping up
Sooners Illustrated Top Stories
Sooner Intel: Thibodeaux still making movesIntel returns with a look at the weekend coming up for OU.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 7:04 AM
Sooner Intel: Adrian EalyIntel returns with an update with SoonerSquad17 offensive tackle commit Adrian Ealy.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 7:01 AM
Sooner Intel: CeeDee LambIntel returns with an update with SoonerSquad17 wide receiver commit CeeDee Lamb.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 6:58 AM
SoonerSquad 17 profile: Chris RobisonEleven members of SoonerSquad17 have arrived in Norman. Time to get to know the newest Sooners.
Sooners IllustratedThursday at 8:56 AM
Jordan Woodard, OU stun No. 7 West VirginiaJordan Woodard came up big again and again to help the Sooners to an upset 89-87 win at West Virginia.
Sooners IllustratedWednesday at 6:58 PM