FINISH LINE: Tough love for Sooners

  • Fri Jan 8th, 2010 11:32pm
  • Sports

Get it right, or else

Willie Warren sported an all-black jersey over a white T-shirt. Tommy Mason-Griffin put in extra work wearing a black Air Jordan T-shirt. Tony Crocker had on a grey Nike hoodie.

Even coach Jeff Capel wasn’t in Sooners apparel Thursday, instead wearing a long-sleeved, black thermal shirt.

This is still the Oklahoma basketball team. But until the players start behaving the right way off the court and playing the right way on it, Capel has his group preparing in anonymity.

“We’re not playing like an Oklahoma team, so we don’t deserve an Oklahoma locker room,” Warren said. “But everything he’s done for us has been for him also. We can’t wear Oklahoma gear. He’s not going to wear Oklahoma gear because he’s a part of us.”

The Sooners (9-5) lost their privileges after suffering their fifth defeat of the season against Gonzaga on New Year’s Eve. If he could, Capel says, the Sooners would wear nondescript jerseys for their Big 12 opener today at Baylor.

His main complaint has been about his team’s failings on defense, but he said many of the problems boil down to intangibles such as passion and giving an all-out effort.

“It was like a whole new ball game after the Gonzaga game,” point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin said. “We were playing 2-on-2, 3-on-3, full court. You’ve got to defend and pick up baseline to baseline just to show that you’ve got heart and you want to compete.”

With Big 12 play set to start, Oklahoma is looking for a fresh start.

Two freshmen were dropped from the starting lineup for showing up late after Christmas break. Before that, the coach criticized Warren — considered in the preseason to be a candidate for national player of the year — as an inadequate leader, with Capel saying after one game that he was “tired of trying to figure him out.”

“One of the things with being a leader — even if he may be upset or he may be frustrated — when you’re leading a group, you can’t let that get the best of you,” Capel said. “You have to be solid all the time. Also in order to be a leader, you have to be on all the time. I think that’s one of the things that’s a challenge for a guy that’s never been in that role of the magnitude that he is now.”

“Our effort has to be at max level every time from here on out.”

If his players do that, then maybe they’ll be able to put on their Oklahoma practice gear.

“I’m looking for a lot of stuff, just how we approach things, how we practice, our attention to detail on stuff. It’s not necessarily about just winning,” Capel said. “It’s about doing things the right way and conducting ourselves the right way and having pride — having pride in what we do, having pride in everything that we do.

“If we do that, then we’ll earn the right to wear that on our chest again.”

PARTING SHOT

“He was a big, instrumental part for the Sonics for many, many years. It’s sad to see that he’s gone.”

— Bill Olden

The Sonics’ and Storm’s longtime scorekeeper talking about Bob Blackburn, the former Sonics broadcaster who died Friday at 85. Blackburn, known as “The Voice” to Sonics fans, called the team’s games from 1967 until 1992.