KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pete Gillen, who coached many an NBA big man, sat courtside Wednesday and marveled at Blake Griffin’s agility. When Griffin soared through the air and slipped the ball between his legs before ramming an authoritative dunk, the hoop junkies in the Sprint Center seats roared. Moments before, Griffin sat at a podium and answered questions as writers from New York to San Francisco took a seat to get a view of college basketball’s resident monster. Even Obama — yes, Barack Obama — noted Wednesday on ESPN that Oklahoma has the player of the year. All stark reminders of the bedrock story of this OU basketball season. The Sooners have a special, special player. A once-a-generation player. Special, special talent. Better take advantage of it. The Sooners tonight begin what they hope is a three-stop process to the summit of the Final Four. Morgan State, champ of the game but outmanned Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, will be hard-pressed to put up a fight tonight. But the coming rounds will be rugged. The Sooners have the talent to meet that challenge. Griffin. Another likely NBA lottery pick in Willie Warren, this summer or next. Veterans galore. This kind of talent doesn’t often assemble in places outside Chapel Hill, N.C., or Storrs, Conn. Time for the Sooners to seize the moment. "These opportunities don’t come around that often,” said OU coach Jeff Capel, not avoiding the challenge. These opportunities don’t come around that often even at Duke, where Capel went to the 1994 NCAA championship game as a freshman but never made it back even to the Sweet 16. "You certainly don’t want to take it for granted, and you have to be able to hopefully lay everything out there on the line,” Capel said. "This is something I have talked to our players about. You don’t want to look back a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now and think about what could have been.” A Final Four, or even the pipedream of an NCAA title, is possible with talent like this. "I’ve known how talented this group was going to be since last summer, when we started playing pickup ball together,” said Sooner senior Taylor Griffin. "I knew this was going to be a special team. "I knew we had a chance to make a long run in the tournament, and that time is upon us.” Final Four history is full of great players. Bill Walton. Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing. But times have changed. Superstars no longer stay three or four years in college. It’s one and done for most. Blake Griffin gave the Sooners a rare gift by staying for his sophomore year. This is it for this prime opening. It’s back to the real world next season. In another life, Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman coached California and a point guard supreme named Jason Kidd, who led the Bears to the 1993 Sweet 16. Bozeman issued a warning, reeling off a list of superstars who never made the Final Four, starting with Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan, who played four years. But, Bozeman said, "it definitely can give you an edge. When you have a great player like that and you hit those walls sometimes in games, they can kind of pick you up and carry you.” Griffin has carried OU basketball far. But there are miles to go before the Sooners sleep. This is a rare chance for OU hoops. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
OU BLOG: Obama doesn't like the Sooners in the Sweet 16