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Oklahoma basketball: Freshmen's time has arrived

COMMENTARY — The Sooners are going through an inconsistent stretch that coincides with reduced playing time for their youngsters. The NCAA Tournament is the right place for the freshmen to see more minutes.
by Jenni Carlson Published: March 19, 2013

“But the seniors are doing it, and that's good to see.”

It's difficult not to feel good for the seniors. These are many of the same guys who've been lauded this season for taking lesser roles than they had in seasons past, for not complaining about it, for being great teammates. Now, they're getting rewarded for hanging in there.

“Sometimes, Coach likes to go with experience, guys that have been there,” senior standout Romero Osby said. “It's no knock on the freshmen or anybody else. It's just the fact that Coach, I think he's comfortable with the older guys being out there sometimes.”

But are the Sooners better for it?

Kruger is always talking about his team having room to improve. But maybe it's time to start facing facts about the ceiling that this team has.

“We need more from everybody,” Osby said. “From the managers on up, everybody has a part in this.”

No doubt about that, but unlike a lot of NCAA Tournament teams that will ride their seniors, these Sooners need to think about who was playing when they were at their best.

The high point of the year came with that home victory against Kansas. In that game, Hield played 28 minutes, Cousins 26 and Hornbeak 16. By contrast, Grooms played 10 minutes, Cam Clark 14 and Andrew Fitzgerald 17. The freshmen were bringing great energy, great enthusiasm and top-notch play while the veterans came off the bench in short spurts.

The Sooners need to get back to that mix.

It comes with risks, of course. Play the older guys, and you know what you're going to get. Play the younger guys, and while you have the upside of potential, you also never knowing what freshman-like thing they'll do.

Still, this team was riding highest with its freshmen playing a bigger role. As much as Hield's surgically repaired foot allows, the Sooners need to return to that formula.

Will Kruger do it?

He didn't completely rule out more playing time for the freshmen.

“Je'lon's been giving us consistent minutes,” he said. “Isaiah gave us some good stretches versus Iowa State. We probably need to get him in the ballgame earlier and a little bit more.”

That's the spirit, Coach. Let the upside of these freshman carry you as long as it can.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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