The Oklahoma students are a part of Lon Kruger's team just as much as his 16-man roster.
That's why there is a live stream of practice. That's why there are open practices. That's why there is Krug's Krew, the student group that acts as a liaison between the basketball team and the student body.
It was all Sooner coach Lon Kruger's idea — although the coach shies away from the topic. The Krew is another rebuilding piece in his program of change. Get students to come to Lloyd Noble Center and watch the men's basketball games. He did it at UNLV. He did it at Illinois.
Now, the four OU students who comprise the cabinet of the Krew — senior Matt Wormus, senior Corey Walz, sophomore Eric Scranton and sophomore Rebecca McDonald — are trying to help.
They are trying to get students to realize that although Oklahoma is a football school steeped in tradition and winning, it does also have a basketball program — a top 25 program in the last 50 years, according to ESPN — that is trying to build its own tradition, whether it's the TCU game two weeks ago or the tip against Baylor at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
The Krew just needs a little help.
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Corey Walz has done this before — built a student section from empty seats into one with fans who cheer together. He did it for his high school back in Northern Indiana. He was born an Indiana basketball fan. That's what the cabinet is comprised of: die-hard basketball fans.
Three of the four grew up near basketball cathedrals, with Wormus in Kansas City as a Jayhawks fan, Scranton just outside Ann Arbor as a Michigan Wolverines fan and Walz as a Hoosiers fan. McDonald became a college hoops fan once she got to Norman.
Walz said a couple years ago, an ESPN worker asked Oklahoma what its basketball traditions were. Nobody could come up with any rooted traditions. So now they're taking some of the traditions from popular basketball schools — like Duke, North Carolina and student sections from across the Big Ten — and trying to implement them.
Newspapers laid out on chairs have been common, but the implementation of things like big heads and synchronized actions during an opponent's free throws is a work in progress.
The members of the Krew's cabinet say above all, they are Sooner fans. They will always be Sooner fans — of football and basketball — and they hope the rest of the student body becomes hoops fans, too.
Goal No. 1 is to get people into the stands. The Krew and Oklahoma Athletics' marketing team set up a “stripe out” for Saturday's game against Baylor — like the one football did for its game against Notre Dame. This time, though, the athletics department will supply the shirts — 6,000 crimson and 6,000 cream.
Goal No. 2 is a long-term goal: always fill the student section.
“We know it's not going to happen right away,” Walz said.
“But at the same time, students cram football games,” McDonald said. “The basketball team puts in just as much time and just as much hard work as the football team, so why aren't students out there supporting them?”
A basketball student group is nothing new to Oklahoma basketball games.
There was Alvan's Army that supported OU star Alvan Adams years ago, Kelvin's Krew during Kelvin Sampson's tenure, and the Capelables when former coach Jeff Capel was at the helm. Wormus used to be the president of the Top Daugs, which were named after the old Oklahoma mascot, until Krug's Krew popped up.
Now, the Krug's Krew cabinet and the marketing team work in conjunction to get the message of upcoming games out through fliers, chalking and social media.
Also, in being an official student organization, the Krew must do philanthropy — which is something rooted in their philanthropic head coach.
“Coach has only been here a short amount of time,” said Charlie Taylor, Oklahoma's assistant athletic director of marketing and the adviser of the Krew. “We had to learn what his style is and what kind of student athletes we have.
“A lot of that tradition has yet to be written.”
But Kruger wanted this. When he got to Norman, he asked the athletics department to go out and “find students who wanted to be a part of something special,” according to Taylor. Hence Kruger's open-door policy.
The Krew and marketing department are looking at building things off players too, like energetic freshman Buddy Hield, but they don't want it all manufactured.
The court storming after beating then-No. 5 Kansas was the first thing that came to Taylor's mind.
“That was authentic,” Taylor said. “Besides beating KU, that was a great moment to see our fans starting to connect.”
Kruger is trying to do what he can beyond opening up his practices and being readily available. At the Krew's first meeting in the fall, Kruger talked with the students, stayed for the entire meeting and shook hands afterward to thank the students for coming. Although the official member total for Krug's Krew is only about 40 students, according to Walz, the student group cabinet welcomes all students to be a part of the organization.
“If you come to games,” Walz said. “You're a part of the Krew.”