What a difference a year makes.
It’s November 2009, OU fans still have the image of the #1 pick of the LA Clippers, Blake Griffin walking across stage to greet David Stern. Since Sampson left, our program has had to endure a serious black-eye with the sanctions and recruiting violations. In 2008, our team attained a #1 AP National ranking for the first time, as Blake Griffin was throwing down 38 points, 22 rebound games regularly. Our future was bright and it was being guided by the latest guy from Coach “K”’s former player, coach, assistant tree.
Capel possesses an amazing recruiting pedigree that extends from his days growing up in Virginia, playing at Duke, and starting his coaching career @ VCU. His ability not only allows us to avoid NCAA sanctions (cough, cough, Kelvin) but to tap into top-50 National talent on the ESPN RISE radar. During the beginning of the spring and summer practices of 2009, Oklahoma locked up two McDonald’s All-Americans: Keith “Tiny” Gallon & Tommie Mason-Griffin. Gallon; a 6’9 300 pound beast brought mammoth sized athleticism to the front-court as well as tried to “somewhat” offset the Griffin brother’s production.
In plucking Tommie Mason-Griffin out of Houston, the Sooners welcomed the true point-guard we needed to compliment our Big 12 freshman of the year, Willie Warren. Warren; out of position at the point in 08-09 and slid to his natural “2 guard” position he played at North Crowley High School, Forth Worth.
Two All-Americans in the same class was considered an enormous accomplishment. TMG and Gallon coupled up with Warren and Griffin, making up half of our entire All-American roster in our program’s history. Everyone at ESPN, FSN, etc. was projected to have OU & Texas from the South division compete with Kansas and K-State in the north for the conference title. ESPN had us ranked #21, while CBSports.com had us #15 in both pre-season polls. OU had a top five rated recruiting class with Gallon and TMG. Capel was asked in a pre-season interview how to follow up their previous 30 win season and #2 Tournament seed:
“Certainly I think the team came together over the spring and summer, and that’s critical. One thing I’m worried about is complacency. Two years ago we were embarrassed in the second round of the NCAA tournament that left a pretty sour taste in our mouth… Last year, losing to eventual champion Carolina, we didn’t feel as hurt, but surely disappointed. When you have the type of success we had, all the highlights and big televised games and such- something like that can make you soft. That’s what we have to guard against. We can’t rest on what we did. We have to be hungry for more. We have to be hungry for the process to get better. “
There was hesitation from the start and it started at the top. The headline to our 09-10 media guide read “RELOADED”. Out from under the Griffin brother’s shadow and his feuding with Austin Johnson out of the way, this was his year. He was to be this year’s version of Jacob Pullen @ KSU. Coach Capel encouraged the sophomore,
“My challenge to Willie has more to do with his leadership- the way he carries himself with everything, challenging his teammates in a positive way and things of that nature. I think he has the ability to be both a great player AND a great leader.”
Well, his predictions were correct. When asked what areas he thought Willie would improve in or where the 09-10 season would take him, he responded, “I’d like to see him be more aggressive, and I’ll think he’ll be that way. I thought at times last year he deferred. This year, hopefully we won’t have that problem. “
If you read all three of the bold quotes, you would have thought the teams media guide had accurately portrayed OU as a top 25 competitor for the 2009 season. The problem was that the season was yet to be played. After OU finished the 2009 season, there was more questions and problems about the future than promising freshman arriving again in 2010. One year after all the preseason hype in 2009, our team was faced with a new, unthinkable “reloading” project…..
-In part two of this entry, I will review the transition period of the post “Griffin” times to our current disappointing state of the Men’s program.
About the Author
Written by Austin DeJarnette
I'm a 25 year old recent graduate of The University of Oklahoma. I currently live in Tulsa, OK and am a self-admitted sports nut. I'm an avid baseball, football and basketball fan and love going to see live music. I love Sooner football and basketball, as well as NBA Western Conference, NFL football, MLB baseball and love attending home-games of the OKC Thunder.