Why should we care about exhibitions in British Columbia?Blake Griffin, the McDonald's All-American (and brother of current Sooner forward, Tyler) who should be the next big Sooner star, made his debut.
Three things we learned (from conversing with coach Jeff Capel): 1. Blake Griffin is going to be a horse in the Big 12, where the Sooners desperately needed someone to battle with the likes of Darrell Arthur, Joseph Jones and Michael Beasley. The 6-10 Griffin started the Sooners' first three games in Canada and had double-doubles in each, finishing the trip averaging 18.8 points and 9.0 rebounds while playing just 19.8 minutes per contest. Capel said Griffin scored in nearly every way -- back to the basket, transition, offensive rebounds, tip dunks -- other than jump shots. "Blake has a mixture of size, strength and athleticism that you don't find much anymore, especially at such a young age," said Capel. "But we don't need him to be a savior. We have other good players here ... we just need him to come in and be who he is."
2. Even if Griffin isn't a "savior," his presence may warrant changes in OU's offense. "I've always been a four-out, one-in coach, especially with our motion," said Capel. "But I've never had two legit big guys like Blake and [Longar] Longar. The strength of our team now is in the post." Look for the Sooners to try to develop Griffin's low-post game, which he strayed from in high school and AAU because he'd get swarmed with double-teams. Matched up one-on-one against a less-athletic post player, Griffin can do damage close to the basket.
3. The Sooners appear to have found another quality guard from the juco ranks.Omar Leary -- a juco All-America who signed with OU two weeks after its starting point guard from '06-07, Bobby Maze, was dismissed -- ran the show in Canada. Returning backup Austin Johnson sat out the trip with an injury, leaving Leary to start all but one game and average 7.3 points and 3.0 assists, while shooting 43.8 percent on threes. Capel said the starting PG race is wide open heading into the season. Leary, a left-hander with quality scoring skills, has a shot to win it if he can add more game-management skills to his repertoire.
Postcard Material: The Sooners took a side trip to the EA Sports office in Vancouver, where they were given a tour and granted a sneak peak at the new NBA Live and March Madness video games. Capel said the last game he remembers being on was Coach K College Basketball for Sega Genesis in '95, when he was a up-and-coming star at Duke. "It came out right after my freshman year, and we played that and Tecmo Bowl all the time," he said. "I was pretty good on that game, too. EA did me up right."
(I had Coach K for Sega, too, and can vouch for the skills of a young, pixelated Capel ... although no one could hold a candle to UVA's Curtis Staples, the sharpshooter with whom I'd regularly top 50 points a game.)