"WHICH WAY YOU GOIN' BILLY"
(COACH: BILLY TUBBS)
When it's summer in Oklahoma, it's winter in New Zealand. That's where coach Billy Tubbs took his team in August for a whirlwind exhibition tour against a bunch of club teams. Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Wanganui...the Sooners endured freezing rain, unheated gymnasiums and long bus rides.
It's not the first time someone traveled halfway around the world after a painful separation, but it's probably the first time a whole basketball team ran away to forget. "We had to banish the Wayman's-gone syndrome," says Tubbs. "I think we did it."
Wayman, of course, is Wayman Tisdale, Oklahoma's three-time All-America center, who passed up his senior year in Norman for the NBA. Had he stayed, he would have been college basketball's premier player, and Oklahoma might have been the No. 1 team. Without him, the Sooners will finish second behind Kansas in the Big Eight.
But on inspection, Oklahoma doesn't look like a team with a vital piece missing. David Johnson, a heavyweight junior who played mostly high post the last two seasons, has moved down low and was the team's leading scorer and re-bounder in New Zealand. His teammates don't expect Johnson to approach Tisdale's numbers, but neither do they expect him to hamper the Sooners' play. "Naw, it won't be much different at all," says guard Tim McCalister of life without Wayman. "The plays are the same."
Bravado? Not really. Last season, whenever Tisdale was held down or in foul trouble, forward Darryl (Choo) Kennedy and swingman Anthony Bowie proved that they could take up the slack. "We are a role-playing team," says Tubbs. "The offense doesn't change—your emphasis changes, depending on your personnel."
With that in mind, look for a stronger Bowie—he put on 10 pounds over the summer—to add about five points and two rebounds to his per-game averages of 13.4 and 5.8. Look for Kennedy to bust up more defenses by challenging bigger players inside. And look for McCalister to play more at point guard, freeing up court time for 6'8" junior-college transfer Ron Roberts and 6'7" junior Chuck Watson. With only one specialist among the starters, 5'11" point guard Linwood Davis, Tubbs will move his versatile players all over the court.