Lon Kruger's plan for building a basketball team consists of a dangerous backcourt of combo guards and a frontcourt that can beat you both inside and outside. This season will be the closest he's been to achieving that blueprint or success as his frontcourt guys are now another year into the program and ready run the floor.
Just as the backcourt is centered around junior Buddy Hield, the success of the frontcourt is on the shoulders of junior forward Ryan Spangler (6-8/235). The Big 12's leader in rebounds last season, Spangler needs to look to be a stronger scorer this season. His ten double-doubles show that he has the has the ability to be one of the top forwards in the nation and his 58% shooting percentage shows that it's more of an issue of being aggressive than it is working on his shot. "That's a part of his game he needs to expand," Kruger said in an interview with SoonerSports.com last month. "We wanted him to be aggressive in shooting the basketball this summer and will again in the fall. It's been a while since Ryan's played that role, but we want him to think like that. We want him to think like a scorer, think like a shooter. If you don't think like that, you're not going to just line up in Big 12 games and start making shots. And the things we do are designed to promote confidence in almost every way. We really want Ryan to think confidently about being a scorer."
Spangler started all 33 games for Oklahoma last season and nearly averaged a double-double (9.6 points/9.3 rebounds). He also swatted a team-high 31 shots and contributed 45 assists. A cast of newcomers will most likely compliment Spangler in the frontcourt. That's not to leave out senior D.J. Bennett who is also looking to play a critical role on the team as well.
Bennett (6-8/202) was a defensive presence who came off the bench to give solid minutes in 32 games last season. He averaged just over nine minutes per game but will most likely see that number grow this season (especially if TaShawn Thomas' waver is denied), and like everyone else on the team, Bennett knows his role.
"D.J.'s had a good offseason," Kruger told SoonerSports.com. "The key for him is to do what he's comfortable doing. He's a shot blocker. He needs to go after every shot defensively and try to block it or alter it. He needs to be a rebounder for us and a guy who's around the paint and around the rim all the time."
Oklahoma can catch a huge break with the potential addition of Thomas this season but even if they don't get him on the floor the Sooners have to be stronger under the basket. They've got to produce more stops on defense this season and they've got to get more boards on both ends of the floor. Both Spangler and Bennett working to get stronger in the offseason are going to be the keys to success in those areas.