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3 Oklahoma
Team Page | 2002-2003 Schedule | Roster

After tasting success with an appearance in the Final Four, the Sooners have set their sights even higher

By Seth Davis

Sports Illustrated
 

White ran the point to perfection for the Sooners and also shot 45.9% from three-point range in Big 12 play. John W. McDonough
ENEMY LINES
An opposing coach's view
"You have to keep them off the boards. They're great offensive rebounders and defenders, and they'll run off long rebounds and steals. ... Last year their inside players were scorers, but with Aaron McGhee gone, I don't think they have anyone to replace that inside. ... Hollis Price hits their big shots, and he's really good in transition, off the dribble and coming off screens. ... Quannas White was the unsung key to their team last year. He's quick, and he's so cool under pressure. ... Ebi Ere is a streaky shooter who can drill threes one night and then disappear the next. They like to back-screen for him on the block and post him up. ... Kevin Bookout will be a steadying force inside. ... Jabahri Brown isn't a good shooter, but he's a tremendous offensive rebounder."
Instead of having his team fly home the day after its 73-64 loss to Indiana at the Final Four last March, Sooners coach Kelvin Sampson let his players stay two extra days in Atlanta, where they watched Maryland beat the Hoosiers to win the national championship. Sampson's not-so-subtle message to his guys: You could have been playing in this game instead of watching it. Now, with four starters returning and two prized recruits joining the team, Oklahoma has every reason to expect that it can play in the NCAA final this season. "Everybody wants to know if we can be as good as we were last year," Sampson says. "But I want to be better."

Hollis Price, the spindly 6'1" senior shooting guard who led the Sooners in scoring last season (16.5 points a game), is a consensus All-America candidate, but his fellow seniors Ebi Ere and Quannas White will be equally pivotal to Oklahoma's hopes of winning the national title. White, who transferred a year ago from Midland (Texas) Community College, proved adept at handling the point guard duties, averaging 4.7 assists a game and shooting 45.9% from three-point range during Big 12 games, seventh best in the conference. The 6'5" Ere was voted the Big 12's newcomer of the year after transferring from Barton County (Kansas) Community College.

Still, it won't be easy replacing the 16.0 points and 7.7 rebounds that Aaron McGhee provided. Junior center Jabahri Brown, who finished sixth in the conference in blocks (1.6 a game), has expanded his offensive repertoire, and 6'8" sophomore Johnnie Gilbert will get plenty of minutes after redshirting last season, but the most intriguing frontcourt talent is 6'8" freshman Kevin Bookout, a terrific shooter (he made an absurd 84.3% from the floor as a high school senior) who was named Oklahoma's Mr. Basketball last season.

In assembling a rigorous schedule -- Oklahoma's nonconference opponents include Alabama, UConn, Michigan State and Princeton -- Sampson is sending another not-so-subtle message to the rest of the country. "All these teams say they want us? Good. We want them, too," he says. Even the hunted can go hunting, and Sampson's Sooners are ready to move in for the kill.

Issue date: November 25, 2002

 


 
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