The Norman Transcript

April 14, 2009

Warren staying or going?

John Shinn

Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel admits he and Willie Warren have not had the definitive conversation on whether the Big 12 freshman of the year will return for his sophomore season.

It will come this weekend when the coach sits down with Warren and his mother, Malaika Frazier.

When asked for a gut feeling on how the conversation will go, Capel believes Warren will be back at OU next season.

“Every time I’ve talked to him — and I talk to him pretty often — he’s expressed that he wants to come back,” Capel said Tuesday. “It’s a situation where if it’s too good to pass up, you have have to take a look at that.”

Warren has expressed nothing publicly to indicate he’s ready to turn pro. He told The Transcript twice — both before and after the Sooners’ NCAA regional final game against North Carolina in Memphis, Tenn. — he would return for his sophomore season.

“I didn’t come to OU to play one year and go to the league,” Warren said. “I came here to be successful.”

But that hasn’t stopped widespread Internet rumors Warren is ready to leave. Where he could go in the NBA draft is also up for speculation.

ESPN NBA draft analyst Chris Ford told the New York Times during the Big 12 tournament he believed Warren would be a top 10 pick.

“I would say 95 percent of NBA scouts and general managers would say he was the best freshman in the country this year,” Ford said. “I think they see him as an immediate type of kid in the NBA because he’s a great athlete who can score the basketball in a lot of ways.”

Most believe Warren would be a first-round pick, but how early he would be taken isn’t a certainty. Ford is an analyst. NBA general managers make those decisions.

Warren showed he could score this season. He averaged 14.6 points a game and scored 27 (against Texas) and 23 points (against Kansas) in the two games OU played without Blake Griffin due to injury.

But the Warren also said he wanted to spend another year at point guard before heading to the NBA. He played the point some as a freshman, but is expected to do more next season. That would also bolster his draft status.

Capel said Warren has done all the things you’d expect someone who plans to still be in college next season to do.

“He’s doing well in his classes as far as grades are concerned,” Capel said. “When we started individual (workouts), he was there for those and doing a good job there. He’s talked to me about his jersey number for next year and doing different things to assist us in recruiting.

“I think he’s going to be back.”

Underclassmen have until April 24 to declare for the draft. Provided they don’t sign with an agent, they have until June 15 to withdraw. The draft is scheduled for June 29.

John Shinn