KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The night before Oklahoma senior forward Cameron Clark joined teammate Buddy Hield and coach Lon Kruger at Big 12 Media Day at the Sprint Center, Clark spent some time on the phone with former Sooners standout Romero Osby.
Osby was the leader of last year's OU team that went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
With Osby, Amath M'Baye, Sam Grooms and others gone from that team, though, Clark is having to adjust to his new role as a leader.
That was one of the topics of discussion when the pair spoke Monday.
Osby told Clark, a quieter presence than Osby or even sophomore Hield, to do what came natural and not try to force things.
“He was just telling me to lead by example, just work hard and everything else will come,” Clark said.
Kruger has delivered a similar message. He's not asking Clark to be the kind of leader that Osby was. He is, though, wanting him to be part of that group.
“Last year, it was definitely Ro and everyone followed his lead,” Kruger said. “This year it'll be a little more by committee.
“Ro was much more outgoing and much more verbal in his leadership. Cam's done a nice job. We're not going to ask him to go to that uncomfortable area where he's just nervous, but I think he's going to find a comfortable area.”
The difference in Clark has been noticeable.
“He's coming out of his shell,” Hield said. “He's not quiet like he used to be. When I first came here, he was a quiet type. He didn't say anything. … He's one of the leaders of the team. Everybody listens to him. When he's got something to say, everybody shuts up. We respect that. We need that from a senior, from Cam.”
Clark isn't going to be one to be screaming at his teammates during practice, but he's not going to hesitate to provide quieter instruction.
“He's not a yeller,” Hield said. “He just talks to us, points us in the right direction. If we're struggling on defense, he just shows us how to play — the right way to play.”
That's what Clark is most comfortable with.
“It's just leading by example, just being the first one in the gym and the last one to leave,” Clark said. “Helping the young guys on and off the court with anything they need.
“I just want to teach them how I would like to be taught.”
Clark pointed out T.J. Franklin as an example of a player who put him on the right path.
“That's what I'm trying to do for my freshmen and sophomores,” Clark said.
But Clark has also helped himself.
After starting in 60 games over his freshman and sophomore seasons, Clark came off the bench in every game last season, averaging 17.3 minutes and 6.5 points, both dips from his first two seasons.
This year, he'll be back in the starting lineup and expected to carry more of the scoring load.
“I just being aggressive each and every time I catch the ball, being aggressive and trying to play for me or my teammates,” Clark said. “Me and coach talked about being active, going to the boards, just getting in the passing lanes, things like that.”
The aggressiveness has shown up quicker on the offensive end.
“Now we need to do it on the boards and he's really capable of doing it defensively, but it's kind of a process but he's working at it,” Kruger said. “He's going to have more opportunities. I think he relishes that and I think he welcomes that. He's not going to shy away from it.”