NORMAN — Oklahoma basketball coach Jeff Capel saw a future in Steven Pledger’s oversized feet. Capel saw it even though Pledger was a little overweight and a little slow.
Pledger was still just a ninth-grader in Chesapeake, Va., not on the list of upperclassmen Capel was recruiting for Virginia Commonwealth.
But once Capel saw how well that overweight, undersized freshman could shoot, he added one more name to that list.
Capel was confident Pledger would mature into those oversized feet, sure his waistline would shrink and the list of schools interested in him would grow.
"Every time we came down to see the kid we were seeing, we made sure that Steve saw us, too,” Capel said.
That didn’t change when Capel packed up for Oklahoma.
By the time Pledger, now 6-4 and 217 pounds, had to decide where he’d play his college ball, he’d established himself as one of the best guards on the East Coast.
Capel was well beyond his status as an enterprising mid-major coach hoping to dig up a gem before the ACC programs could find them.
"We continued to recruit him and monitor,” Capel said. "And (we) thought he’d be a really nice addition to what we’re trying to do here.”
So did Pledger, who signed up to join Capel at Oklahoma.
Shooting came first when it was just Pledger and his dad in an empty gym. While others his age worked on ball handling tricks, Pledger perfected his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release.
"He didn’t want me to be one-dimensional,” Pledger said.
While teammates and rivals patterned their games after Michael Jordan or Virginia native Allen Iverson, Pledger’s mold was Ray Allen.
As a senior, he hit nearly half his 3-point attempts on his state runner-up high school team in Chesapeake.