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October 30, 2012

Veterans counting on newcomers to push team forward

NORMAN — It was not what Sam Grooms said so much as how he said it Monday afternoon at Oklahoma men’s basketball media day.

Grooms was asked what the Sooner newcomers bring to practice.

There are a couple of walk-ons— C.J. Cole and Steven Noworyta — and they’re probably doing a heck of a job, because that is the way of the walk-on. Still, “the newcomers,” really, are freshmen Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Heild and Je’Lon Hornbeak and preseason Big 12 newcomer of the year Amath M’Baye.

This is what Grooms said:

“It’s a lot. They bring intensity every day. Sometimes, when you’re younger, you want to do things to impress the coaches and they do that every day.”

But the telling part of the moment was this big smile Grooms had as he heard the question and launched into his answer.

It said so much more.

Like it’s hard to keep up with these guys. Like the veterans may have the experience, but they don’t have what these guys have. Like maybe you just have to be there to understand because practice is a completely different deal. It’s different. Things have changed.

If there’s a media day image (or the description of an image) Sooner roundball fans might want to take with them, that’s about as good as it gets. Grooms’ smile gives teeth to the narrative that will be making the rounds this season, the one that has the Sooners headed back to the NCAA tournament.

That was coach Lon Kruger’s message Monday afternoon.

“The opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament is the goal of every player and every team in the Big 12, and that should be our goal, too … That’s a realistic goal and a healthy goal,” he said. “We’re not downplaying that. That’s the goal we want our guys to have every year, and I think this year is more legitimate and more reasonable … This group should have that goal.”

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