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The Oklahoma Juco Star (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday November 8, 2005 1:46PM; Updated: Tuesday November 8, 2005 6:15PM
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By Luke Winn, SI.com

A Rich Juco History
OU's famous teams have been filled with junior-college transfers
1988 NCAA runner-up team
Name Pos. JC
Mookie Blaylock G Midland (Texas)
Ricky Grace G Midland (Texas)
Harvey Grant F Independence (Kan.) (after transferring from Clemson)
Andre Wiley F Compton (Calif.)
Mike Bell F Lon Morris (Texas)
Tyrone Jones F Hutchinson (Kans.)
Art Pollard G Dodge City (Kans.)
2002 Final Four team
Name Pos. JC
Jason Detrick G SW Mo. State-West Plains
Ebi Ere G Barton County (Kan.)
Aaron McGhee F-C Vincennes (Ind.)
Daryan Selvy F Carl Albert (Okla.)
Jozsef Szendrei C Northeastern (Colo.)
Quannas White G Midland (Texas)
2005 roster
Name Pos. JC
Taj Gray F Redlands (Okla.)
Terrell Everett G SW Missouri State-West Plains
Michael Neal G Lon Morris (Texas)
Chris Walker G San Joaquin Delta (Calif.)
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And they're often ready to contribute right out of the gate. Sampson has signed a total of 25 juco players in his 12-year tenure, and three of them -- Cory Brewer, Ebi Ere and Gray -- have become the Big 12's Newcomer of the Year. The Sooners' preseason No. 6 ranking is largely based on the talent of its juco quartet -- Gray and guards Terrell Everett, Michael Neal and Chris Walker.

The juco formula has a history of success at Oklahoma: Under Billy Tubbs in '88, the Sooners reached the NCAA title game with an all-juco backcourt of Mookie Blaylock and Ricky Grace, as well as juco forward Harvey Grant, a 20-point scorer. Under Sampson in 2002, OU returned to the Final Four with four of its top five scorers -- forward Aaron McGhee, and guards Ere, Jason Detrick and Quannas White -- hailing from the juco ranks.

Geography plays a major role in the Sooners' juco-recruiting prowess: Border states Kansas, Texas, and to a lesser degree, Missouri, are loaded with nationally-powerful junior colleges. Sampson and his staff have tapped into the region's elite J.C.s, because, as he says, "Recruiting juco kids is one thing; recruiting kids from great juco programs is another." And Oklahoma is by no means the first school where Sampson has enlisted juco talent: In his two previous jobs, at Washington State and Montana Tech, he used juco transfers to help turn around struggling programs (in '94, he took the Cougars to their first NCAA tournament in 11 years, and before that, had three straight 22-win seasons with the Orediggers).

In places like Pullman, Wash., Butte, Mont., "you're not recruiting in the mainstream," Sampson says, and pursuing juco players was a necessary alternative. The Sooners, on the other hand, have enough prestige to put them in the running for the nation's best prep talent -- and in the November signing period alone, Sampson is expected to sign three recruits from Scout.com's top 100, elite small forwards Keith Clark and Damion James and point guard Scott Reynolds. If that trio eventually achieves fame in Norman, however, it can expect to do it with the aid of the Sooners' prototypical, juco-produced talent.