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Breaking down OU basketball in 2010-11

Jake Trotter Modified: April 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm •  Published: March 24, 2010

Wednesday, the OU men’s basketball program issued a release, confirming the departures of Ray Willis and Tommy Mason-Griffin. Willis is transferring. Mason-Griffin is turning pro.

That hardly throws the book on this off-season.

Willie Warren is still determining whether to turn pro, too. And Tiny Gallon’s status remains in limbo and OU officials investigate the nature of a $3,000 wired deposit into his personal bank account by a financial advisor.

Still, closure on Mason-Griffin and Willis provides some clarity on what next year’s team might look like.

My best guess at this point is that Warren leaves and Gallon stays. Warren’s intention all along has been to bolt for the NBA. And unless something goes wrong with his recovery from minor ankle surgery, then you have to think he’ll follow through.

As for Gallon, my belief is that he’ll be back. He might have to sit out a few games, and pay back any illicit money. But I think he’ll be back.

That leaves OU’s roster rotation of returning players — as of right now — looking something like this:

PG: None
SG: Steven Pledger
SF: Cade Davis
PF Andrew Fitzgerald, Kyle Hardrick
C: Tiny Gallon, Orlando Allen

I’m not 100 percent convinced Hardrick or Allen will be back, but there’s been nothing to suggest they’re leaving either. So for now they stay in the rotation.

Now, add OU’s two signess, guard T.J. Taylor and forward Cameron Clark, and I think OU’s rotation adjusts to this:

PG: T.J. Taylor
SG: Cade Davis, Steven Pledger
SF: Cameron Clark
PF Andrew Fitzgerald, Kyle Hardrick
C: Tiny Gallon, Orlando Allen

This team has several weaknesses, but the starting lineup isn’t horrible, either.

As to the weaknesses: point guard play and frontline depth (not to mention scoring and defense). But improving point guard play should help the offense, added frontline depth will augment the defense.

Point guard play
Jeff Capel has to sign at least 1-2 junior-college points guards to plug the weakness here. Taylor is a nice player, but he’s more of a 2-guard than a true point. Relying on a freshman 2-guard to man the point all alone is asking for calamity.

According to OUInsider.com, Capel has offered three juco guards:

* Marquise Carter (6-foot-4) of Three Rivers C.C. He is the younger brother of former Sooner Nate Carter. Carter also has offers from Gonzaga and Wichita State. Carter is rated the No. 26 JUCO prospect by Rivals.com. Carter, however, is more of a combo guard. He averaged 17.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

* Josh Watkins (6-foot) of Howard College. Watkins is from New York Wadleigh High. He averaged 14 points, five rebounds and four assists this year while leading Howard to the JUCO national title game win over Three Rivers. He outplayed Carter in that game to earn tourney MVP honors. Watkins has been talking with Cincinnati, West Virginia and Florida State, among others.

* Daniel West (6-feet-2) of Pensacola JC. West originally signed with Tennessee out of Saginaw, Mich., but didn’t get past NCAA clearinghouse. He was also recruited by SMU and St. John’s coming out of high school.

Frontline Depth
If Gallon comes back, OU potentially could have a serviceable 1-2 punch inside with Gallon and Fitzgerald.

But after that, well, not much.

Allen didn’t play much at all this past season, even when OU had frontline issues. But Allen was a much bigger part of the rotation than Hardrick, who played a total of 4 minutes the whole season. Provided these guys don’t make dramatic improvement, they won’t be counted on to fill OU’s frontcourt void off the bench.

That means Capel, just as he does at point guard, needs to add some bodies on the post.

The guy Capel has been targeting for awhile is Southern Idaho (Juan Pattillo’s college) center Aziz N’Diaye. The 7-foot-1, 255-pounder has offers from Loyola Marymount, Oregon State, Washington and Colorado, among others.

N’Diaye took an official visit to Norman Feb. 5.

Landing N’Diaye could go a long way in alleviating the frontline depth woes.

Best-case lineup (assuming Warren leaves, Gallon stays)

PG: Josh Watkins, Marquis Carter
SG: Cade Davis, T.J. Taylor
SF: Cameron Clark, Steven Pledger
PF Tiny Gallon, Andrew Fitzgerald, Kyle Hardrick
C: Aziz N’Diaye, Fitzgerald, Orlando Allen

Now, is that an NCAA Tournament team? Doubtful.

But if Clark, a top-30 rated prospect, is as good as advertised, and Gallon can turn around his off-the-court issues, it is a team you can rebuild around.

However, if Gallon is forced out due to his financial advisor issues, OU can’t sign a juco point, and N’Diaye decides to go elsewhere, next year could be a long season, with little light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s why the next month will be something to follow for OU basketball. Both in who leaves. And in who Capel is able to bring in.

-JT

Follow Jake Trotter on Twitter: @Jake_Trotter.

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