NORMAN — Sam Grooms', Andrew Fitzgerald's and Cam Clark's names weren't cast in bronze on the starting roster.
Five starting spots are determined every day in practice by Oklahoma men's basketball coach Lon Kruger. So far, he's seen that freshmen Isaiah Cousins and Je'lon Hornbeak work best starting alongside seniors Romero Osby and Steven Pledger and junior Amath M'Baye.
In a day of social media that is all about “my thoughts,” “my friends” and “my videos,” there is little use of the word “my” by the Sooners. “My spot” doesn't exist. What exists is a lineup that is seen by former starters and current starters as a lineup that is best for the team.
“Whatever coach needs me to do,” Clark said. “Just come in, play defense, rebound, gets stops.”
Oklahoma will carry that philosophy into Saturday's game against Texas A&M in the All-College Classic. Tip inside Chesapeake Energy Arena is 1:05 p.m.
In two previous seasons, Clark started a combined 60 games in 63 possible starts. This season, Clark does not have a single start to his name. Same for senior Grooms. He started all 31 games last season as a point guard. This year, he's cheered from the bench during the opening tip and watched his minutes go from an average of 31.5 per game to 17.1.
“Last year, I was wore down,” Grooms said from playing so many minutes. “Now it's better.”
So far this season, the wealth of minutes has been spread around, with Pledger averaging the most at 25.3 minutes per game.
“Things could change day by day, but we've just got to be happy with winning,” Grooms said. “I just have to do it, no questions asked and I'll be comfortable with that until coach says, ‘Sam go out there and lead the team.'”
Fitzgerald, who started every game the last two seasons and has only one start this season, feels the same way. He sees his current role being similar to last year: take shots, bring energy, have pride in the team and know that whatever decisions Kruger makes are the best for the team.
“I'm just happy to see my teammates play,” Fitzgerald said.
The freshmen carry the same attitude. They know the starting spots they currently occupy could be taken away depending on practice effort. Cousins knew he was coming in and taking a spot as a new player. But he said it was kind of hard to accomplish.
“We had to push ourselves even harder than how we worked already,” Cousins said.
The team talks about starting roster slots like the stock market, a fluid opportunity given to who can create the biggest gain. The Sooners know they have two losses to their record already. This year, they've won games. They've stuck around in situations that, last year, would've ended badly.
“I've been through the ropes already,” Grooms said. “I've won and I've lost. I've seen it all. If I can teach that rather than (the freshmen) learning while they're going through it, it'll help the team out even more.”