Last season Lon Kruger led Oklahoma to their 24th NCAA Tournament appearance since 1983. A new crop of players will help them try to make it 25 this season.
A class of four signees and a couple of additional transfers will bolster what had been a fairly thin Oklahoma bench and possibly give the Sooners some new faces in the starting lineup. While Coach Kruger hasn't backed away from the idea some of them will be redshirted there's also no denying that others will be heavily relied upon to help the team succeed this season.
The play of guys like Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard shows that Kruger isn't afraid to put a freshman on the floor if he fits within what they are doing and can contribute. The flip-side of that is that with Hield and Cousins being juniors now and Woodard being a sophomore the Sooners have enough experience where it isn't necessary to play as many freshmen. Doesn't mean we won't see them though.
Bola Alade - 6-4/192 shooting guard from Murphy, Texas. A latecomer to the 2014 class, Alade committed to the Sooners in March. Due to the depth ahead of him, there's a good chance that he'll see a redshirt but Coach Kruger said that they really won't make those decisions until next month or so. Alade averaged 17.7 points per game in high school.
Dante Buford - 6-7/205 forward from Greenville, South Carolina. With depth possibly being an issue in the frontcourt, it would be really good to have Buford available this season. He averaged a double-double through his senior year of high school with 16.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Coach Kruger confirmed to me on Monday that they are still waiting for clearance academically (because of accreditation and not grades) before he will be eligible.
Khadeem Lattin - 6-9/201 forward from Houston, Texas. Like Buford, Lattin averaged a double-double during his senior year of high school. He scored at a pace of 15 points per game and grabbed 14 rebounds. Also known as a rim protector, Lattin averaged four blocked shots per game during his senior year as well.
Jamuni McNeace - 6-10/202 center from Allen, Texas. The biggest of Oklahoma's freshmen. McNeace was the nation's 25th ranked center per 247Sports. He averaged just shy of a double-double during his senior year of high school with 9.7 points and 10.1 rebounds. The following video released by the basketball program, from Tuesday's practice, shows that he's learning his role pretty well.
"They performed very well," Coach Kruger said when asked by SoonerSports.com about how his freshmen did over the summer. "It's an exciting group. It's a raw group in a lot of ways offensively, and yet it has tremendous upside. Dante (Buford), Khadeem (Lattin) and Jamuni (McNeace) are all long and athletic, have high motors, high energy, are fun-loving and like to compete. We really think that group can leave a huge mark on the program."
Dinjiyl Walker - 6-1/197 combo guard from Vaughan, Ontario. A late pick up, who didn't commit until May of this year, Walker was clearly brought in to replace Je'lon Hornbeak who transferred to Monmouth this spring. Walker averaged 16 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game as a sophomore at Iowa Western Community College last season.
TaShawn Thomas - 6-8/242 forward from Killeen, Texas. Getting Thomas on the floor is the utmost priority for the Sooners. Coach Kruger told me this week that they have filed all the appropriate paperwork with the NCAA and are hoping to hear a resolute answer soon.
Thomas started 96 games at Houston where he averaged 14.5 points per game and shot 57% from the floor. A three-time All-Conference selection, Thomas also averaged 8.7 boards and 2.2 blocks. Thomas recorded 34 double-doubles in his 96 games as a Cougar. If Oklahoma can get his waver cleared with the NCAA then it radically transforms this team into a different monster.