No doubt it would have been a great sign for the Oklahoma basketball team to go undefeated during its recent five-game European trip.
But ending on a loss might have been the best thing possible, said OU coach Lon Kruger in discussing the two-week excursion.
“That last game was the best,” Kruger said. “That was a pretty good team that knocked us around pretty good. We made a lot of progress, and it reminded our guys we still have a long way to go. We played with a lot of confidence.”
Confidence was one of the question marks regarding this year’s group. The two weeks in Europe don’t guarantee things will go smoothly this season, but it’s a good first step.
Kruger said he saw a lot of positives, both from the guards and the frontcourt and has given him more reason to be optimistic about the season.
“I really couldn’t have imagined it being much better,” Kruger said. “Individually, a few more guys stepped up. We showed the ability to score, and a lot of different guys stepped up at different times.”
With the forwards, the talk centered around Ryan Spangler and D.J. Bennett. Each had to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules and both were very eager to finally get to play against real competition and not just practicing against their teammates.
The guard situation was a little different. Sophomore Buddy Hield made the trip but did not play because of a recent flare up of his foot injury. Kruger said there is no cause for concern there.
Hield’s absence allowed some of the younger guys like freshmen Jordan Woodard and Frank Booker the chance to get quality minutes. Woodard and sophomore Jelon Hornbeak shared the point guard duties, while Kruger said sophomore Isaiah Cousins was moved to the wing and more as a shooting guard.
“The timing of this trip couldn’t have been better given the fact the team is so young,” Kruger said. “The two that stood out with leadership were Ryan Spangler and Je’lon did a really good job.”
Kruger talks jucos
The news wasn’t all good for OU this week as it was announced junior college power forward signee Edson Avila will not be with the team.
“We’re disappointed for Edson and our program,” Kruger said. “We learned about that when summer school ended. But we never worry too much about what we don’t have. We’re focused on what we do, and we’re excited about that.”
And excited to have juco power forward Keshaun Hamilton in the fold. Hamilton arrived on campus Saturday. He will add much needed depth to OU’s frontcourt. Kruger said Hamilton has been doing his own personal workouts and looks to be in good shape, but there’s no true way of knowing how he’ll fit in at this point.