Oklahoma Sooners: Isaiah Cousins

A battle with a former Big 12 rival highlights the men’s basketball schedule for Oklahoma. The Sooners will take on Texas A&M, who moved to the SEC this year, in the All-College Classic on Dec. 15 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The Sooners 14-game non-conference slate features seven home games including a Dec. 29 contest against Ohio, one of the darlings of March Madness 2011. Road games at Arkansas (Dec. 4) and Oral Roberts (Nov. 28) highlight their road slate.

[+] EnlargeLon Kruger
Mark D. Smith/US PresswireLon Kruger and the Sooners will play on national television 17 times this season.
OU will also participate in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. from Nov. 23 thru Nov. 25.

The November schedule sets up well for the Sooners, who return their entire starting five from last season and lost just two contributors from the roster.

After spending their Thanksgiving in Florida, OU faces the toughest stretch of its non conference schedule with games at Arkansas, in Oklahoma City against Texas A&M and back to back home games against Stephen F. Austin and Ohio. Fortunately for Lon Kruger’s squad, those four games will be played in a span of 25 days and make up the majority of OU’s December schedule because of finals.

OU will appear on national television 17 times this season (11 on ESPN or ESPN2, 6 on ESPNU), six more than last season.

The Sooners enter this season with plenty of optimism with the addition of Wyoming transfer Amath M'Baye along with talented freshman guards Buddy Hield, Je’Lon Hornbeak and Isaiah Cousins. They join a roster which returns six players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in Kruger’s first season.
NORMAN, Okla. -- The commitment of Jordan Woodard (Edmond, Okla./Memorial) is a terrific coup for Oklahoma for the Class of 2013.

A four-star prospect with a 80 rating, according to ESPN.com, Woodard is one of the nation’s top point guards. The strong, steady guard is an ideal fit for the overall program and the future teams that Lon Kruger is looking to build in Norman.

[+] EnlargeJordan Woodard
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comJordan Woodard is the Sooners' first commit for the Class of 2013.
Woodard is a team-first player who has an excellent feel for running a team. He’s not a dynamic shooter or unstoppable scorer but he makes his teammates better and helps his team win. He also rates as a solid defender who should be able to hold his own and possibly set the tone defensively for OU.
With Carl Blair's decision to leave the program, Oklahoma is left without a returning backup for starting point guard Sam Grooms.

Spring signee Isaiah Cousins (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon) could fit the bill. At 6-foot-4, Cousins could bring excellent size to the position behind Grooms, who is listed at 6-foot-1.

“He’s very good off the dribble, very good at creating for others, he has good size at the point guard spot,” OU coach Lon Kruger said recently. “Sam is the only point guard we have returning so it’s good he can step in and play there.”

Cousins picked OU over offers from Virginia Tech, Xavier, Dayton and Rhode Island. He brings the versatility to play point guard and shooting guard. The Sooners already have Steven Pledger returning at shooting guard along with incoming freshmen Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak at that position, making point guard a perfect fit for Cousins.

[+] EnlargeLon Kruger
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiOklahoma coach Lon Kruger is excited about his new point guard Isaiah Cousins
Carl Blair, Grooms’ backup last season, elected to leave the program after his junior season and is likely headed to Prairie View A&M.

Two-sport standouts?

Incoming freshman football players Gary Simon and Charles Tapper didn’t leave their excellence on the football field during their prep careers. Both Oklahoma signees were standouts on the basketball court after spending the fall on the gridiron.

Tapper starred as a power forward for Baltimore City College High School and spent a portion of his career playing AAU basketball alongside Aquille Carr on the Baltimore Elite AAU team.

Simon was named player of the year while averaging 18.4 points per game for St. Petersburg (Fla.) Gibbs as a senior. He’s said he would like to play basketball at OU.

Sooners basketball coach Lon Kruger would welcome the duo with open arms but is uncertain if either player will join his squad this season.

“[We’re] not sure,” Kruger said when asked if they would join his squad after football. “We heard a couple of them had interest in coming out and if that works out, great. We love people that play more than one sport.”

Greener pastures?

More than 400 players have elected to transfer since the end of the college basketball season in early April.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger isn’t too surprised by all of the transfers nationwide.

“I think it’s a statement on society in general,” Kruger said. “If you look at young people, they’re changing summer AAU teams all the time. It used to be that freshmen go in, and it’s going to be a matter of time, they pay their dues.

“Kids don’t think like that today. They go in right now and if they aren’t playing the role they want to, they’ll go somewhere else to play that role. Often times I think it’s a reflection of young people not making a decision on a college for all the right reasons.”
You see it all the time at the college level. Head coaches leave and the recruits or players on campus start to explore other options. But you don’t see it too often at the high school level. And you normally don’t see a top prospect considering such a game-changing move this late in the recruiting season.

However, that is exactly what point guard Stevie Clark (Oklahoma City/Douglass) is considering following the departure of Oklahoma City Douglass coach Terry Long.

Clark, who is 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, is a four-star prospect ranked No. 57 in the ESPN 60 for 2013. But he is contemplating graduating early from high school and enrolling in college in the fall. The news was first reported by NewsOK.com.

Stevie Clark
Bob Przybylo/ESPN.comPoint guard Stevie Clark is the top junior basketball player in the state, but he might reclassify and enroll in college in the fall.
The junior was offered by Oklahoma in February, and the Sooners are one of his more than 20 offers at this point.

Clark’s mother, Dorshell Clark, said the family has checked with Oklahoma City Douglass to make sure he has all of the necessary credits to graduate early. Clark has a 4.0 GPA. She has been on top of making sure her son is eligible with NCAA Clearinghouse guidelines for a long time. Clark has been a prospect to watch since his freshman year when he received his first offer. He is the No. 1 in-state prospect in the class.

“Right now it’s a real possibility,” Dorshell Clark said. “It was a shock to me as well, but I will support my son with whatever he chooses to do.”

With his academics in order, the next question becomes athletics. Do any of Clark’s top schools have room to add him to their 2012 class?

The Sooners do not have an open scholarship for Clark and have already signed three guards for their incoming class: Je'lon Hornbeak (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep), Buddy Hield (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian) and Isaiah Cousins (Mount Vernon , N.Y./Mount Vernon).

Some of the other schools on Clark’s list are in the same position. Dorshell Clark has reached out to some of the schools and the answer seems to be consistent. No school has said no at this point, but it might be tough to make the pieces fit.

“I called Coach [Lon] Kruger, and he was out of the country,” Dorshell Clark said. “I should be talking to him soon.”

Dave Telep Stevie is one of the top deep-shooters in the country. His range and consistency are high level. The biggest adjustment from high school to college will be the advancement of his passing game and development of a secondary offensive weapon like a floater. He's talented enough to make the move early but would be best served playing in a multi-guard front to ease the transition.

-- ESPN.com senior basketball recruiting analyst Dave Telep on Stevie Clark.
Long’s departure is a huge blow, but it wasn’t necessarily a huge shock. Long accepted a head coaching job at Mustang, Okla., last week. Oklahoma City Douglass is a Class 4A school, while Mustang is 6A, the largest classification in the state. Long had already tried to leave Oklahoma City Douglass earlier in the spring. He was a finalist for the job at Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe, one of the premier basketball programs in the state.

Even before Long officially left, it has been a tough situation for Stevie Clark and the Clark family to do deal with because they are such good friends with Long and his family.

“He’s got to do his thing. I understand that, but he means a lot to me,” Clark said two weeks ago at the OKHoops.com Invitational in Oklahoma City. “He has been a lot more than just a coach for me.”

Clark averaged 25 points and 11 assists per game in helping lead Oklahoma City Douglass to its third consecutive state championship.

It wasn’t until February that Clark and the Sooners got on the same page. Miscommunication had each side believing there was not mutual interest. Once that got cleared up, though, Clark and OU have quickly developed a strong bond. He attended several of OU’s final home games and Kruger visited Clark at Oklahoma City Douglass to watch him play. Clark said he likes the direction Kruger is taking the program.

He also has offers from Florida State, Oklahoma State and Connecticut, among numerous others.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. It’s judgement day for Ryan Broyles. The former Oklahoma receiver holds his Pro Day today at 10 a.m. CT and is expected to run the 40-yard dash and run routes for NFL scouts. Broyles was slated to be a second or third round pick before the injury and is looking to prove to NFL teams that he is ready to make an immediate impact on Sundays. It has been a quick recovery after his ACL injury last November and it’s hard to believe Broyles won’t have success in the NFL; he’s the type of guy who make the foundation which championships are built upon.

2. Unless something unexpected happens, it appears Ryan Spangler will leave Gonzaga to transfer to OU. Orginally from Bridge Creek, Okla., Spangler is a big body with excellent athleticism and offensive skills. If he does end up in Norman he should become an impact player as soon as he becomes eligible in 2013. Spangler, who was not offered by Jeff Capel’s Sooner program before Lon Kruger took over, is set to visit OU this weekend.

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Lon Kruger’s approach on the recruiting trails has made it clear Oklahoma men’s basketball coach wants options in the backcourt.

OU added another versatile guard to the roster with the signing of Isaiah Cousins (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon) on Wednesday. A 6-foot-4 combo guard, Cousins is a two-star prospect on ESPN.com who picked the Sooners over offers from Xavier, Virginia Tech, Rhode Island and Dayton.

Cousins fits the mold of fellow 2012 signee Je'lon Hornbeak as a guard who can play point guard or shooting guard.

"He has played a lot at the off (-guard position), he's played a lot at the point,” Kruger said in a release. “He's a guy who will come in here and make good plays for his teammates. Everyone will enjoy playing with him. He loves to play, he's a good competitor and he has a really high desire to get better and be as good as he can be."

Most importantly, he should provide depth and fit into the hard-working mentality Kruger continues to try to build the program upon.

“He's the ultimate gym rat,” said Mount Vernon coach Bob Cimmino who has coached at the school for the past 18 years. “Isaiah is probably the most improved player I've coached in my tenure at Mount Vernon.

“He's always had a great work ethic, but something just clicked in the last year, and as a result, his talent just escalated off the charts. He got better and better and became a dominant force in our games. He only knows how to play at one particular level and that's hard. Isaiah takes no plays off and he works equally hard on both ends of the court."

Cousins joins Hornbeak, Buddy Hield and invited walk-on C.J. Cole as newcomers to the program next fall.
Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. The waiting is over and the stage is set. Oklahoma's only quarterback offer, Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), said Monday that he is going to make his college decision Wednesday night after his team’s workout. Provided everything goes as planned, that would put his announcement around 9 p.m. CT. His four finalists are OU, USC, Washington and Alabama. Browne had an incredible visit to OU in March, and it sounds like he had as equally good of a visit to USC last weekend. Browne said he will not do any interviews until after his announcement. It feels like a battle between the Sooners and Trojans at this point.

2. The Sooners needed a ninth-inning rally to take last weekend’s series against Kansas State but better late than never. Evan Mistich drove in the series-winning run to help OU to a 4-3 win Sunday afternoon. OU (18-11, 4-5 in Big 12) hopes to ride that wave of momentum into a crucial three-game set at sixth-ranked Texas A&M (22-6, 4-2). Unlike every other weekend series, OU will play the Aggies on Thursday through Saturday. The final game of the series will be televised on ESPNU.

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It wasn't expected to be a big weekend for Oklahoma, but the Sooners picked up a huge commitment from running back Greg Bryant (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage-Boca Delray) on Saturday. Bob Przybylo answers readers' questions about Oklahoma football and basketball recruiting in his mailbag every Monday. Got a question for Bob? Send it to his mailbag at bprzybyloespn@gmail.com.

Greg Bryant
Courtesy of Corey LongESPNU Watch List RB Greg Bryant chose OU over offers from LSU, USC, Florida State, Georgia and others.
Ben in San Antonio asks: How surprising was Bryant’s commitment? I hoped he would commit but never thought it would happen.

Bob Przybylo: It was very surprising, Ben. Few could have seen it coming. Heck, not even Bryant saw it coming. After spending less than two days in Norman, Okla., Bryant had a feeling that OU was the right spot for him.

Bryant, who hadn't been vocal lately about his interest in the Sooners, said that Saturday changed everything. He loved the family atmosphere at OU and feels like he could compete immediately for a starting running back spot. He is very excited about this opportunity.

Bryant was seriously looking at visiting USC, South Carolina and Notre Dame before committing on Saturday. He said taking more visits was part of his plan, but his plans have now changed. Things aren’t progressing as much with defensive recruits, but Bryant has OU fans feeling good again.

Brian in Edmond, Okla., asks: I keep seeing all these top-tier recruits slipping through our fingers and committing elsewhere. Since defense is the priority for 2013, please give me some good news regarding our stance on the defensive side of the ball? Besides Justin Manning, which would be a huge disappointment if he committed somewhere else, give me a few guys who are on the so-called “short list.”

Bob Przybylo: Stay patient, Brian, as OU is making good progress on the defensive side of the ball even if the commits aren’t rolling in.

Recruits to be on the lookout for are defensive end D.J. Ward (Lawton, Okla./Lawton) and linebacker Chans Cox (Pinetop, Ariz./Blue Ridge). Both have expressed big-time interest in the Sooners and OU has made them a priority.

Defensive back continues to be an intriguing spot. Things should clear up this month regarding some top cornerbacks such as Cole Luke (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton), Antwuan Davis (Bastrop, Texas/Bastrop) and Maurice Smith (Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles), who all attended Texas' spring game on Sunday but were not offered. OU is in the hunt for all three and next few weeks will be interesting.

Cody in Wichita, Kan., asks: I get that Max Browne is the No. 1 quarterback, but has Josh Heupel alienated the other quarterbacks with this philosophy?

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This past weekend Isaiah Cousins (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon High School) announced he had cut his list to five schools and would take official visits to all five campuses before making a final decision in April.

Three days later, that plan obviously changed as Cousins made a verbal commitment to Oklahoma following his official visit to start the week, leaving Connecticut, Virginia Tech, Xavier and Dayton all waiting at the altar.

Oklahoma undoubtedly benefitted from assistant coach Lew Hill’s hometown ties -- a Mount Vernon graduate himself -- but the other factor that presumably played a big role in Cousins’ decision was the potential to play point guard position for the Sooners.

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Every weekday morning, a member of the SoonerNation gives his take on three things happening in the Sooner sports world.

1. Lon Kruger earned a commitment from guard Isaiah Cousins, a 2012 prospect, on Wednesday. Since lack of depth was a primary reason for the Sooners' struggles this season, gathering as many talented players as possible has been the goal for Oklahoma’s first-year coach. Cousins brings good size at 6-foot-4 and 186 pounds and will join signees Je'lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield in the battle for minutes in OU’s backcourt. Don’t expect a huge immediate impact from Cousins, a two-star prospect, but he could give Kruger another option in the backcourt next season.

2. The accolades for Trey Metoyer continue to roll in. Coach Bob Stoops called the freshman receiver “special” during a radio interview on Wednesday matching up with the consistent praise Metoyer has received from teammates and coaches since stepping on campus in January. At this point it’s safe to say Metoyer will be a contributor to the Oklahoma offensive attack this fall.

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Nobody questioned the effort of the Oklahoma basketball team in its first year under coach Lon Kruger. Though the results weren’t always there, the Sooners gave everything they had in every game.

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Cousins
AP Photo/Mike GrollGuard Isaiah Cousins picked the Sooners over Xavier, Virginia Tech and South Carolina, and others.
Discipline wasn’t the problem but scoring was a concern and has been the target of OU’s 2012 class. Already with two shooting guards signed, OU has its third shooting guard in the class.

Guard Isaiah Cousins (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Mount Vernon) committed to the Sooners on Wednesday, high school coach Bob Cimmino confirmed.

Cousins, a two-star prospect, is 6-foot-4 and 188 pounds. He also has offers from Xavier, Virginia Tech and South Carolina, among others. Xavier, Virginia Tech, Dayton and Connecticut were the other schools in his top five.

Kruger and assistant coach Lew Hill visited Mount Vernon High last week and Cousins visited OU this week. Hill is a graduate of Mount Vernon.

Cousins had some early offers and could have signed, but he decided to wait because he felt more schools would enter the chase. He was right as Cimmino said the interest for Cousins picked up almost overnight.

Shooting guards Je'lon Hornbeak (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep) and Buddy Hield (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian) have already signed their letters of intent for the Sooners.


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