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OU basketball's Cameron Clark opening eyes and his mouth

OKLAHOMA BASKETBALL — The improved confidence Oklahoma basketball player Cameron Clark is showing is evident in the amount he's talking. Teammate Steven Pledger says Clark is now talking a lot and ‘he's more engaged in the game.'
BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, Modified: November 10, 2011 at 5:03 pm •  Published: November 10, 2011
NORMAN — Cameron Clark is more confident this season. The barometer? He’s talking more.

Oklahoma opens the Lon Kruger era Friday night against Idaho State. A sophomore small forward, Clark is one of many variables that will affect whether the Sooners can exceed expectations.

Clark showed during his freshman season he can affect play on both ends of the court.

“Cam has come a long way,” said guard Steven Pledger. “He actually talks now. He didn’t talk at all. There was no talking with Cam. Now he talks a lot. That’s good. It’s better for us. Now he’s more engaged in the game.”

The highest ranked recruit on OU’s roster — No. 32 by ESPN, 34th by Rivals and 39th by Scout in the 2010 class — Clark is a 6-foot-6 swingman, a solid mid-range shooter with 3-point range.

“We’re going to have the type of team defenses will have to worry about everyone out there,” Pledger said. “Cam could give us 14 to 15 points a game consistently.”

Defense might be Clark’s best asset.

Kruger is a man-to-man coach, but because of OU’s lack of size, he could sprinkle in some zone.

Former coach Jeff Capel used Clark’s length at the top of a 3-2 zone. That’s when the Sooners were often at their best.

Kruger said Clark could develop into a defensive stopper.

“Without question,” Kruger said. “With his athletic ability and ranginess he could be a terrific defensive player.”

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1. Start of the Lon Kruger era: There are reasons for optimism but fans need to give Lon Kruger time. In his first year at Florida the Gators went 11-17. His first year at Illinois, he inherited a senior laden team and took them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. At UNLV, the Rebels finished 17-14 his debut season and reached the second round of the NIT. Of those three scenarios, making the NIT is the most likely option. But there's enough talent it will be interesting to see how they're playing in February.

2. Fast-paced Sooners: This team will play fast. It's not like Billy Tubbs' constant pressure. But Kruger's Sooners will pressure. Half-court pressure was effective in the preseason finale against Washburn (Kan). The Sooners collected 10 steals and forced 20 turnovers. This team is like a “gym rat” player. They'll play hard. They'll be scrappy. They'll be perimeter oriented. And with improved depth — three newcomers in the rotation — Kruger will have more options.

3. Rebounding is critical: Rebounding. You could underline that word 100 times. It's the key whether the Sooners can exceed near-the-bottom-of-conference expectations. If all five players crash the boards and OU gets steady production from its secondary break before opposing defenses set up it could help offset inside size disadvantages. When the Sooners win the rebounding battle those are the games they're playing well.



G — Carl Blair (6-1, Jr.)

A starter last year, he will share PG duties with Sam Grooms.

G — Sam Grooms (6-1, Jr.)

Junior college transfer will share PG duties with Carl Blair.

* G — Steven Pledger (6-4, Jr.)

Sharpshooter drains 3-point daggers. Might lead team in scoring.

F — Cameron Clark (6-6, So.)

Athletic (9.4 average) small forward can impact both ends.

F — Tyler Neal (6-7, So.)

Starting the opener but might become sixth man off the bench.

F — Andrew Fitzgerald (6-8, Jr.)

Leading returning scorer (12.6), rebounder (5.0) is an anchor.

Rotation candidates

F — Romero Osby (6-8, Jr.)

Mississippi State transfer is capable of posting some double-doubles.

F — Casey Arent (6-10, Jr.)

Junior college transfer is the leading candidate for top inside reserve.

G — Calvin Newell (6-1, So.)

Gained some experience (3.5 average) in a reserve role.

F — Barry Honore (6-7, Sr.)

Depending on matchups, he could earn big body minutes.

F — C.J. Washington (6-7, Sr.)

Competing to have a similar reserve role as last season.

Rest of roster

F— Amath M’Baye (6-9, Jr.)

Wyoming transfer must sit out but might he be most talented on roster.

G — T.J. Franklin (5-11, Sr.)

Veteran walk-on played a little during two exhibition games.

G — James Fraschilla (5-10, Fr.)

Walk-on is son of ESPN analyst, former coach Fran Fraschilla.

G — Jarrod Kruger (6-1, So.)

Walk-on transfer from K-State is the nephew of coach Lon Kruger.

* suspended for the first game


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