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OU Insider: Basketball team will welcome nine newcomers

By Jake Trotter Modified: May 31, 2010 at 12:16 pm •  Published: May 31, 2010
NORMAN — Lost in the shuffle of an NCAA investigation, the departure of five underclassmen and exit of two assistant coaches is the fact the Oklahoma men's basketball team will feature nine newcomers next season.

A staggering figure.

Nametags might come in handy the first few days of practice.

Thankfully for the fans, the names of the new players will be on the back of their jerseys during the season.

For now, The Oklahoman breaks down these newcomers and how they might integrate into the rotation, as the Sooners attempt to bounce back from last year's disappointing season.

Last month, coach Jeff Capel emphasized the importance of finding a point guard to replace Tommy Mason-Griffin and Willie Warren, who handled the bulk of the ball-handling last season.

Capel didn't just land one point guard. He landed two.

How quickly Carl Blair, a transfer from the University of New Orleans, and Calvin Newell, a prep school product out of the Philadelphia area, pick up Capel's offense could dictate whether the Sooners are competitive within the league next season.

Blair averaged 9.2 points and 3.7 assists for New Orleans last year. Unlike Mississippi State transfer forward Romero Osby, Newell will be immediately eligible because New Orleans is transitioning from Division I to Division III.

"I think Carl is talented,” Capel said. "I also think he has a toughness and really wants to prove he can play at this level and I think he can.”

While Blair is known for his on-court leadership, Newell's reputation is built on scoring. As a senior in high school, he averaged almost 30 points a game, and will be asked to provide the Sooners with much-needed perimeter scoring punch.

"He can really, really score the basketball,” Capel said. "Very, very competitive kid. Really tough kid, with his upbringing in Philly.”

With Blair and Newell probable to platoon the point-guard duties, that will free up Capel to utilize the strengths of incoming freshman combo guard T.J. Taylor.

Stoutly built at 6-3, Taylor is capable of handling the ball and running a team, but more effective when he is able to focus on scoring, which he can do in a variety of ways.

"He's got really good size; strong, athletic,” Capel said. "A left-hander. As a guard, that can be difficult to defend.”

With senior Cade Davis a lock to start at the off-guard, Taylor could vie for a starting role if Capel decides to start three guards.