The Sooners held their first team practice in over 100 days on Monday.
With players, coaches and other team staff members all wearing face masks due to OU’s COVID-19 precautionary measures, the practice looked vastly different from those held at the beginning of the year.
Even though the team wasn’t able to practice fully, head coach Lon Kruger was happy to see his players safely return back to action. Along with keeping the Sooners prepared for the season, Kruger said his team still understands what’s happening is bigger than basketball.
“During the last four months, we've talked to the players that the most significant thing is our attitude about what lies ahead,” Kruger said. “The attitude of being flexible, understanding (what happens) is not going to be normal. I think Oklahoma, with ( OU President Joseph Harroz) and (Athletic Director Joe Castiglione), has done a fantastic job of listening to medical (professionals) and not being influenced by what other people are doing.
“Our guys get that. Our guys understand that it's not convenient to wear a mask when you're running around on the basketball court, but they understand it's important. They understand it’s important to (stay safe) when they leave practice. ... We don't know what lies ahead in terms of schedule, so you have to be flexible and versatile and react on the fly.”
14 players on the Sooners’ roster were tested for COVID-19 after they returned to campus on July 16. Per the university, none of those players tested positive for the virus.
Despite the offseason has been plagued with inconveniences, Kruger believes there’s still a lot that his team — and the country — can learn from this time.
“Prior to March, I had never been on a Zoom call. Now, I guess we're wearing Zoom out," Kurger said, jokingly. “I think it'll be a little bit of a reset in a lot of different ways. We're recruiting without leaving campus. We are recruiting and no one has been to campus, unofficially or officially. It's been a dead period. I think everyone, not just the athletic department, will take advantage of that (in the future). Even though you'd like to see people in person, you certainly get a lot done that way.”
Whenever the Sooners are able to return to play competitively — and in whatever capacity that may be — Kruger expects the senior-led Sooners to pick up right where they last season left off.
“With Alondes (Williams), Brady (Manek), Austin (Reaves) and Kur (Kuath), it’s huge that those four give us great production,” he said. “We especially need those older guys to give us consistency every day in practice, in games, in leadership, in defensive, in rebounding, in every way. A real key for our team is those four seniors establish themselves early and do it day after day.”