By Corbin Hosler
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — One of Norman High’s biggest issues this season is its lack of size. The Tigers have athletic guards but are relatively undersized inside. It’s a contributing factor to the Tigers’ 2-5 start, but it’s one the Tigers are finding other ways to compensate for.
With just Blake Hardman and Michael Patterson inside, NHS has been outrebounded in most of its games. But despite being smaller, the Tigers have found ways to compete on the boards, thanks to guards Cooper Clark and Demond Oguno. The pair stand no taller than six feet, but both are consistently been among the top rebounders on the team.
Clark typically guards opposing teams’ shooting guards and gathers most his rebounds by crashing the glass when the shot is put up. His athleticism and body control have allowed him to snag rebounds away from taller opponents.
Oguno may be even more impressive. Standing just 5-11, the senior uses his impressive vertical to pull down more rebounds than any Tiger player his size. It also allows him to be an effective offensive rebounder for the Tigers, a skill that was on full display in NHS’ Tuesday loss to No. 3 Midwest City.
Oguno turned in his best game of the season against the Bombers, scoring a career-high 14 points and pulling in seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end. It was a much-needed spark for the Tigers, and something coach Matt Thornton believes the Tigers can build from.
“I thought Desmond had one of his best games,” Thornton said. “It’s really big for us to get that kind of production from him.”
Oguno’s emergence is particular timely for NHS since the 6-5 Hardman exited Tuesday’s game after a dizzy spell. He is expected to play in Friday’s game against Southmoore but will need all the help he can get inside against the Sabercats. Thanks to Oguno and Clark, who have shouldered most of the scoring load this season in addition to contributing to rebounding, he’ll have it.
“It’s huge that we get that kind of help on the boards,” Thornton said. “We’re an undersized team, and a lot of the lineups we’re trying have us going small. That makes us a little more athletic but can hurt us inside. We’re still trying to find the right combinations.”
Thornton regularly plays up to nine players, and the starting lineup changes from game-to-game. For an NHS team that played just three games before the holiday break, it’s still early in the season, and Thornton is still finding the lineups and rotations that give the Tigers the balance they need between pushing the ball and not giving up too much in the paint.
For Clark, one of the few Tigers to have much varsity experience before this season, it’s a process that hasn’t always been easy but is getting better every time NHS takes the floor.
“We’ve got a ways to go still this season,” he said after the team notched two victories over the weekend. “But it’s starting to come together.”
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