Steven Pledger could feel the eyes on him. He knew it was a pressure situation and he needed to make the shot.
That's how he liked it.
He put up a shot. Good! He looked toward the kitchen window from his front yard and knew his dad saw him make the shot. That night he wouldn't hear about the importance of being the man who hits the basket in the clutch.
Every March, there's that guy — the one whose name gets picked up by every major sports organization as the guy who shocks America with his clutch performances. Every year it's a new guy. Could it be Steven Pledger this year?
If that question were based on his last two games, few would say yes. Pledger is 1-of-10 shooting in losses to TCU and Iowa State.
But on the season, Pledger is 70-of-189 for .370 average or almost four 3-pointers every 10 tries. He also ranks second all-time for the Sooners in 3-pointers made.
And all it takes is going 3-for-4 like he did in OU's game against Baylor — where his fuel added to the fire of Romero Osby and Sam Grooms and the three Sooners ignited their team to sweep the Bears.
“If he has had one bad game, we're not like, ‘Man, Pledge didn't do anything,'” Osby said. “He always plays well for us. He's been doing it for years. It's his time …
“To see us get in the tournament and him get hot, I'd love that.”
While a hot-streak or clutch moment would help the team as a whole, it would benefit Osby the most — because if Pledger is the guy in the clutch, Osby is the guy who never takes a night off.
“Roe has been so consistent,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “The guys look to him for leadership or strength. Anyone else that steps up helps him a lot.”
Kruger said he could easily see that “anyone” being Pledger.
During his career, Pledger said he feels like he's been called on for “just about every close-game situation.”
He feels like it's something a player is born with — and it's something that's in his family. He used to watch his dad do it when he played ‘Navy Ball,' which as Pledger explained is for guys who couldn't go to college who played on military ships.
“I actually remember when we lived in San Diego, I was about five years old and most kids would be off playing and messing around and I was just sitting there watching him play,” Pledger said of his dad. “I wouldn't get up or move.”
As he grew, he learned when others seem to get tight or nervous, he was OK being the one to “step up for the blame for the miss or the make.”
So does Pledger think he is that guy for Oklahoma this season?
“I don't want to say anything about it,” he said then kind of gestured that he didn't want to jinx himself. “But the one guy that gets hot, yeah I know about it.”