NORMAN — Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald have gone through it all with Oklahoma basketball.
Well, all except March.
The two have been roommates since the summer before their freshman year — two teenagers from the East Coast that came halfway across the country to play college basketball. They came in the year after Blake Griffin led the Sooners to an Elite Eight appearance.
The two freshmen thought their first year would be one of victories and a Big Dance. Then they went through the firing, the hiring, the losses and the eventual upsets. Now, the two fourth-year Sooners are ready for Senior Day against Iowa State.
“It brings us to this moment right now,” Pledger said. “We're in tournament talk, and we're used to our coach. It took us a year, but we're ready.”
It all began with a different team, a different head man. In the spring of 2009, when Pledger and Fitzgerald were seniors in high school, they sat as signed recruits watching Griffin take OU to the Elite Eight. They were excited to join then-coach Jeff Capel's squad.
But the next year was nothing like what they saw from their homes in Chesapeake, Va. and Baltimore, Md. Their freshman year ended on a nine-game losing streak. Their sophomore year, they only won 14 games.
Capel was like a father-figure to Pledger, but he was fired after the 2010-2011 season. The senior guard said he never would have left his family back in Virginia if he'd known that in Year 2 his coach would be fired.
Year 2, though, had gone a lot like Year 1 to Pledger and Fitzgerald. The team felt like one of individuals. It didn't gel as a unit. Pledger had been so excited for that team, too.
“In my first game, I went out and shot 21 points,” Pledger said. “As the year went on, a bad first year, and the start of my sophomore year at playing point guard, it was just up and down.”
That's the same way Fitzgerald described the years.
“I felt like we could win every game, but being realistic, I knew that we could lose,” Fitzgerald said. “That really hurt me as a player. I still went out there and played as hard as I could. It's really just hard to think about stuff like that.”
The thoughts of tournament titles, March Madness and glory disappeared from their heads.
But Fitzgerald and Pledger learned from the losses. Through it all, they learned how to become men and best friends.
“Oh, we've had our arguments,” Pledger said of their friendship and of being roommates. “The arguments that we had were idiotic arguments.”
Their largest came the summer before their junior season, when current Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger was going through his first summer with the team. Pledger and Fitzgerald were always arguing in the gym. Eventually, they solved their differences and took their frustration to the court and unleashed it on their opponents.
Although OU only won 15 games during their junior season, Pledger finished with a team-high 16.2 points per game. He made 72 3-pointers.
Fitzgerald was the third-highest scorer on the team. He had the second-most rebounds with 154. They learned how to adjust to a new system, a new coaching staff and a new style of teaching. They learned more about each other.
“We know more about each other than we probably should,” Pledger said. “Blood couldn't make us any more closer.”
Now, four years later, thoughts of tournaments and Madness in March make them smile.
While Pledger said he'll let others bring up the talks of tournaments, Fitzgerald admitted he and his roommate look at the projections quite a bit.
“We don't like being the 8, 9 seed because then you're going to get the No. 1 seed in the first round,” Fitzgerald said. “We're really just trying to get it together where we get a better seed in the tournament.”
Regardless of their seed, the two East Coast Sooners are playing on Senior Day — and another chance to impress the NCAA selection committee.
“We never been in it,” Pledger said of tournament talk.
As he shook his head and smiled, he said, “It's a good feeling.”