Jeff Capel wouldn’t even say the name. For a full year, including two games against the player whose name would not be uttered, Capel stewed.
It wasn’t so much that Damion James had stiffed the Sooners, had backed out of a letter of intent signed when Kelvin Sampson was coach. It was how James went about it. "It was a tough situation for everyone,” Capel said. "You’d like to think you’re dealing with the type of kid or kids who would be straight up with you.” But Capel now calls his anger "immature.” He says the name, "Damion James,” with ease and with praise. Even said that last season, when the Sooners arrived in Birmingham, Ala., for the NCAA Tournament, Capel took a moment to dream. "I made the comment, ‘Imagine if we had a front line of Blake (Griffin), Longar (Longar) and Damion James,’ ” Capel said. Well, I imagine Louisville wouldn’t have cold-cocked OU 78-48 in the tournament’s second round. But that’s immature thinking, too. OU didn’t keep James when Capel arrived in April 2006, didn’t have James in Birmingham and won’t have him tonight in Austin, Texas, where for the seventh time the Longhorn forward will play against the school with which he originally signed. And that’s OK. Everything has turned out swell for all parties. Capel’s front line is doing fine, with the Griffin brothers and newcomer Juan Pattillo, and his second-ranked Sooners are 25-1, with the No. 1 slot likely if OU beats Texas. And James has prospered at Texas, where he’s played in six NCAA Tournament games, started for three seasons, scored 1,155 points and grabbed 871 rebounds.