NORMAN — Oklahoma’s basketball season begins at 7 p.m. tonight against Coppin State at Lloyd Noble Center, but it’s more than the start of new basketball season.
Basketball is a team sport and the Sooners aspire to be the epitome of that this season.
“I’ve always been a big believer that if your team is winning, the team is the star,” Capel said. “I know guys standout individually — especially when you have someone who is exceptional. I’ve always been very into the team being the star.
“This is different, but every year is different and it’s a different kind of challenge.”
The challenge for the Sooners is entering a season when it doesn’t know who its best player is. The likely choice is senior guard Cade Davis. He’s the remaining link to OU’s Elite Eight team in 2009.
But there’s no preseason player of the year candidate like Blake Griffin two years ago or Willie Warren last season. There’s no McDonald’s All-Americans like Tommy Mason-Griffin and Tiny Gallon, who were expected to step in as freshmen and carry a team.
The Sooners had varying levels of success with their preseason stars. Griffin carried OU to great heights in his two seasons. Last season, Warren, Mason-Griffin and Gallon failed in that department as OU slipped to 13-18.
They never embraced their roles.
This season it is about putting five guys on the court who can play a certain role and the belief that the sum is greater than its parts.
“Everyone has to do what they to do to help us win,” forward C.J. Washington said. “No one cares about being stars here. The only thing that matters is winning around here.”
Washington was a juco All-American last season after averaging 19.3 points and a school-record 13.0 rebounds for Connors State College. A preseason groin injury has limited him in practice. Whatever his health, he’ll have to find a role and thrive in it for OU to succeed. He’s no different than anyone else on the floor tonight.
Davis is the classic example of where finding a role can take a player. His minutes have increased every season. He started as an outside shooter before turning into one of OU’s best defenders. This season, he might be its best player.
But that will be determined during the season. The Sooners are blank canvas waiting for something to be painted. Everyone has to earn their time with the paint brush.
“It’s been good because everyone has a humble attitude and has been working hard,” Davis said. “Everyone is just working hard and trying to accomplish one goal.”
That goal is winning and it starts tonight.
Would that be easier if the Sooners had that one player it could rally around? Absolutely.
Perhaps someone will emerge in that role over the next four months. No matter what, the Sooners’ success or failure depends on stars aligning and turning that energy into a winning force.
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org