NORMAN — There are players that Oklahoma’s coaching staff will never try to hold back when it comes to attempting something bold. Any time Amath M’Baye feels like testing the limits of athletic ability, no one on the Sooners’ bench is going to put up a stop sign.
“When he’s aggressive, we are a better team,” teammate Romero Osby said.
The Sooners (13-5, 4-2 Big 12) need M’Baye to play that way when they face Baylor (14-5, 5-1) at 6 tonight at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. And that’s the direction the junior forward has been moving since conference play began earlier this month.
Over the last six games, M’Baye is averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. They’re respectable numbers, but talk to anyone around OU’s program and the feeling is something great is on the verge of emerging. However, it’s a matter of getting M’Baye’s confidence level to expand.
There’s pressure that comes with being the Big 12 Conference’s newcomer of the year, which he was named back in November. It means everyone is expecting a difference-making player to take the court every single day.
Those expectations didn’t just come from fans, coaches or teammates. M’Baye holds them as well. When he struggled in the middle of December, the 6-foot-9 forward was asking himself why. Every time he got the ball, he was thinking more than reacting. There was no confidence to lean on.
“He works so hard and he’s so conscientious, he burdens himself with doing everything great all the time, and it just wasn’t happening for him,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “I think the best thing about him is he just kept working at it and plugging away. He’s got himself back around.”
There have been periods where M’Baye has been that explosive player everyone around him sees daily. In last Saturday’s loss at Kansas. M’Baye only scored 12 points, but he was never passive.