NORMAN — Late in Oklahoma’s season-opening victory over Alabama, the ball bounced just off Sooner forward Ryan Spangler’s finger tips. It had no outcome of the game, but it was a potential rebound and he views any ball up in the air as his for the taking.
He’d already come up with 12 that day. But it wasn’t about the numbers.
“That’s one of the biggest goals for me,” Spangler said when asked about rebounding. “That helps the team in the little ways just to win a ballgame you know, playing defense, rebounding, diving after loose balls.”
In that sense, the most impressive element OU has added for this is Spangler’s tenacity when it comes to rebounding. It’s something its lacked for several seasons and something they desperately need, considering OU will primarily play with an undersized player in the post all season.
Spangler blunted the size gap OU (1-0) had against the Crimson Tide. It’ll be easy to see why when it faces North Texas (1-0) at 7 p.m. today at Lloyd Noble Center.
OU coach Lon Kruger knew he would get that kind of effort from Spangler when the two first made contact. Spangler, who is from Bridge Creek, started his career at Gonzaga, but decided to transfer closer to home after his freshman season. Kruger wasn’t around to recruit him coming out of high school, but the report he got from Gonzaga coach Mark Few was enough to want Spangler on his team.
“The two things they said: he runs the floor like crazy and rebounds like crazy,” Kruger said. “The Gonzaga people really liked him and he liked them. It was just a matter of distance and wanted to share the experience with his family and we’re the beneficiary of that.”
However, the 6-foot-8, 232-pound Spangler is far from a runt. He just plays with that kind resoluteness. Players and coaches saw it all last season while Spangler sat out due to NCAA transfer rules. He was dogged in his pursuit of rebounds while playing the practice squad.
During that year away, Spangler trimmed 20 pounds off his frame and then added 10 pounds of muscle. He also refined his offensive game, adding range and decent ball-handling and passing skills for a big man. He scored 15 points in the opener.
Kruger doesn’t see any reason why the double-doubles won’t continue.
“What you saw the other night, Ryan will do that 35 times this year. We really believe that in terms of effort,” he said. “We may not get those results every time, but he’ll put forth that effort every time because that’s the way he’s wired.”
OU hasn’t had a player like that in years and they’re about as common as 25-point scorers in the current college game.
The Sooners have a guy who will dive head first into the dirty work and will battle for every ball.
“My dad always told me to do the little thing in any sport you play,” Spangler said. “I’ve always rebounded. I think it’s what wins games.”
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