Oklahoma Basketball: 5 Reasons to be excited about the Sooners

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The Porter Moser era gets underway tonight at 7 p.m. inside the Lloyd Noble Center as Oklahoma welcomes in Rogers State for the Sooners’ lone exhibition contest before officially tipping off the season Tuesday, Nov. 9 against Northwestern State.

Here’s five reasons to be excited about what the 2021-22 men’s college basketball season has in store for Oklahoma.

Porter Moser brings bundles of energy into the program

Apr 24, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners new head basketball coach Porter Moser waves to the crowd during the spring game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

First-year Oklahoma head men’s basketball coach Porter Moser ingratiated himself to the Sooner fanbase from day one with his infectious level of energy.

That’s been evident to one of the few returnees on his roster. Six-foot-6 small forward Jalen Hill discussed the transition from Lon Kruger to Moser.

“I think they’re both two great coaches, Hall of Fame coaches. One thing that’s different I would say is Porter is always fired up. He has a ton of energy and excitement and every day he brings it from film to practice to going to dinner,” Hill said.

Transfer portal additions

Mar 9, 2021; Greensboro, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jordan Goldwire (14) brings the ball up court against Boston College Eagles guard Demarr Langford Jr. (15) during the second half in the first round of the 2021 ACC men’s basketball tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. The Duke Blue Devils won 86-51. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

It will be an almost entirely rebuilt roster for Oklahoma. The Sooners have just five returners: guards Elijah Harkless and Umoja Gibson, small forward Jalen Hill, center Rick Issanza and walk-on guard Blake Seacat.

OU returns just 27.1 percent of its scoring and 33.8 percent of its minutes played per game from last season. Those marks are the fewest and second fewest in the Big 12, respectively.

The Sooners’ roster features a bevy of NCAA Division I transfers: redshirt senior forward Ethan Chargois from SMU; redshirt senior guard Jordan Goldwire from Duke; Tanner and Jacob Groves from Eastern Washington; and redshirt senior guard Marvin Johnson from Eastern Illinois.

Molding this roster of transfers and limited returnees together and getting it to gel will be Moser’s biggest challenge.

“That’s been the hardest thing and the challenging thing is to continue to bring them together and that takes time. I think we’re doing as good as we can do. Spending time with them off the floor, doing things on the floor. Constantly relationship building,” Moser said.

Tanner Groves' leadership

Mar 20, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Eastern Washington Eagles forward Tanner Groves (35) shoots over Kansas Jayhawks guard Christian Braun (2) during the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Groves demonstrated his potential star power in the NCAA Tournament last March against Kansas when he scored 35 points on 5-of-11 three-point shooting against the Jayhawks.

With an Oklahoma team that doesn’t return much in the scoring department, Groves will be expected to be a consistent double-figure scorer for the Sooners.

“As being an older guy, a fifth-year senior, it’s kind of my role to step into that leadership position and try to help everyone else get on the same page. I think we’ve come a long way so far and I think we’ve taken a lot of big steps,” Groves said.

He said the match with Moser has been a perfect fit thus far.

“For me to come here, it took a lot. Coach just really sold it to me in such a good way that it just seemed like such a great opportunity. I couldn’t pass it up. Coach is from a mid-major program and he was able to take his program and turn it into a top-25 team in the nation. I’m a mid-major player that had a good year last year and coach liked what I bring to the table,” Groves said.

“I just think that our mindsets were alike. All I really want to do is win and I think coach is the same way. That’s his goal. Winning is obviously the biggest thing. That was the main thing that really went into the decision-making process when it came to me coming to OU.”

Groves averaged 17.2 points per game last season with Eastern Washington.

Moser's first freshman class

Oct 20, 2021; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oklahoma head coach Porter Moser during the question and answer session during the Big 12 Basketball Tipoffat T-Mobile Center. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Moser’s first freshman class includes 6-foot-3 guard Bijan Cortes from Kingfisher, Okla., 6-foot-2 guard Alston Mason out of Overland Park, Kan., and 6-foot-2 guard C.J. Noland from Waxahachie, Texas.

Cortes, Mason and Noland will be the first pieces Moser truly gets to build around going forward. How well they perform this season will offer fans a glimpse into what the future of Sooner basketball will entail.

Growth in Gibson, Harkless and Hill's games

Feb 27, 2021; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners forward Jalen Hill (1) drives to the basket around Oklahoma State Cowboys forward Kalib Boone (22) during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Even with a wealth of new faces, how successful Moser’s first season with Oklahoma turns out will in plenty of ways depend upon the growth of Elijah Harkless, Jalen Hill and Umoja Gibson.

Moser likes what he’s seen out of Hill ahead of the season.

“He’s really starting to get a personality on the floor of it’s okay to be the nicest guy off the floor but on the floor you’ve got to compete. You’ve got to come with it. He’s doing that more consistently,” Moser said.

“I think he can be an elite-level defender. He really picks up stuff defensively. He gets defense, he gets using his length. He’s one of our best rebounders out to in. He’s a great out to in rebounder. That’s a skill, because sometimes guards on the perimeter, they don’t crash down and rebound down. Jalen crashes down rebounding and I think offensively he’s getting more confidence to go off the dribble, getting more confidence to shoot that shot. We need him to. My vision is for him to have a much bigger scoring role than he’s had in the past.”

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