COLUMN: Sooners better off without Mason-Griffin, Gallon
As I watched my Twitter feed during the Wednesday's OU-Texas game as a typically do, I received a gift in the form of a Twitter conversation between former OU men’s basketball players Keith “Tiny” Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin. The two were discussing what it would be like if they were still on the team, even jokingly trying to devise a plan to return. Well, I have my own thoughts about that.
At the same time I waved goodbye to my parents on my freshman move-in day, former OU standout and NBA All-Star Blake Griffin was doing just the same. It made following the sport I love so dearly very easy. I watched an OU group come together and work hard to make themselves better.
The following year, they added another McDonald’s All-American — and now also Los Angeles Clipper with Griffin — Willie Warren, and that OU team went to the Elite 8. Griffin won the Naismith Award for the nation's top collegiate basketball player and decided to take the money in the NBA, and who could blame him.
It was then Warren’s team. He was named to the Preseason Naismith Award watch list and would be accompanied by McDonald’s All-American Gallon and one of the nation’s top point guards, Mason-Griffin. Along with Tiny and TMG, the Sooners also received Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald.
This was the most talented “to-be” OU team, it seemed. You still had the streaky shooting of Tony Crocker and Cade Davis, the jovial mind of guard Ray Willis and the hardhat play from UCLA transfer Ryan Wright. This was the nucleus that Jeff Capel was given; this was the team that the program could take that next step after Blake.
No one saw what was to come.
Oklahoma began that season pretty decent, still taking time to learn their team, but something seemed wrong with Warren. He did not have that same bounce in his step that he did the year before, and he was not playing at his same level.
I did not begin covering men’s basketball until the start of the second semester last year. The only constant I noticed that season was Capel’s complaints about the size of the egos on his roster and the fact Oklahoma could not win on the road — at all.
To make matters worse, Pledger and Fitzgerald were arrested in early February for shoplifting. This action spoke very clear of things to come.
Warren had season-ending surgery, Oklahoma lost all nine games following an upset of Texas and Tiny never proved he could be the big-man the Sooners needed.
At the culmination of the season, Warren, TMG and Tiny all declared for the NBA, Willis transferred and Crocker graduated. So, OU was left with an unproven guard in Pledger, an overweight forward in Fitzgerald and Davis.
So the question arises: What if those three who declared for the NBA stayed? Where would OU be now?
I believe this season would have been much different — negatively. With the absence of these players, other Sooners have had to step up.
Now don’t get me wrong; OU could use a point guard, but Carl Blair is now No. 3 in assists in the conference. OU could use a consistent scorer, but if teams deny that player the ball, no one else would know what to do. OU is led in scoring overall by Fitzgerald, but he has not led every game in scoring.
On that Fitzgerald story, OU could have used more experience down low, but seeing how Tiny did not spend much time down there, Fitzgerald had to become a better player and did that by losing 32 pounds in the offseason.
If those three players came back, Calvin Newell, C.J. Washington and Tyler Neal would not be gaining valuable experience this season that will come in handy in the years to come.
Also, Pledger and freshman Cameron Clark would not be learning what it takes to become scorers. The absence of Warren has thrust them into the spot to have to score in his place.
All in all, the team as a whole is gaining experience they would not have gained with those three player here. Honestly, with the loss of TMG, Warren and Tiny, everything seemed to be going wrong for OU, but in my opinion, it gave them a clean slate to rebuild and to come back anew.
No, they will probably not be in any postseason tournament, which will make this young squad hungry to make The Dance next year. So as the fans only show up when it’s free and snowing, and this team takes losses like House pops Viccodin, remember they are very young and heading toward a glass ceiling that once they break, the sky is their limit.
— Jordan Marks, public relations senior
Gallon: Boys cheese RT @tommygriffin5: Watchin tha texas and ou game
Gallon: If me and Griff would have stayed at OU.. SMH Big 12 would not b da same
TMG: @WeHateTiny23 lmao
Gallon: @tommygriffin5 bro I swear I'll do ANYTHING #NoRazB