Oklahoma basketball has been in a bit of a slump. The team hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since current NBA all-star Blake Griffin left in 2009. Coach Lon Kruger is changing the Sooners’ mentality in his second year with the program.
“They’re motivated to make a step and experience what it’s like to play in the postseason,” said Kruger. “They very badly want to take big steps.”
Kruger admitted adding West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12 doesn’t make an NCAA tournament goal any easier. He said his team must win close games to take those steps.
“There’s a difference between coming close – as we did so many times – and going ahead and finishing,” said Kruger. “That’s the thing we have to do now.”
Oklahoma was 4-7 in Big 12 in games decided by ten points or less last season. Kruger hopes four freshmen and two transfers will be enough to get the Sooners more wins.
“That influx of the first full-time recruiting class hopefully will allow us to take a big step forward,” said Kruger.
“It’s enthusiasm that they’re going to add to the program,” he continued. “It’ll be interesting to see which ones emerge and which ones play roles right from the start.”
Amath M’Baye highlights the new group. The 6’9’’ French forward, who transferred from Wyoming, averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in his sophomore season before switching to Oklahoma.
“Amath M’Baye was here sitting out as a transfer last year,” said Kruger. “He’s the most ready of the new group because he’s experienced and had two good years at Wyoming.”
Kruger wouldn’t confirm M’Baye as a starter next season. The coach likes his forward’s experience, but he’s relying on three seniors – which includes two forwards – to carry the Sooners.
“They have a much better idea of what needs to be done,” said Kruger. “They finished three years where they haven’t been in the tournament. This group’s pretty motivated.”