Oklahoma held its local media day on Wednesday following the team’s 89-76 exhibition win over Southeastern Oklahoma State Tuesday night.
With the introduction of the 2019 recruiting class, which ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 according to Rivals, there is a great deal of excitement and uncertainty surrounding this year’s squad.
Here are our three takeaways from OU’s media day:
Rick Issanza will miss time due to injury
The only freshman that didn’t make an appearance in the Sooners’ exhibition match was forward Rick Issanza. The 7-foot center from Congo was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and has been highly touted for his length and athleticism. Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said Issanza has been dealing with soreness in his knee and groin strain.
“He’s not quite ready to go,” Kruger said.“He missed several practices because of those two things, and we’re trying to get him healthy. That’s the most important thing right now.”
The Sooners will miss Issanza in the paint, but there are plenty of other capable bigs on the roster. Senior forward Kristian Doolittle is expected to hold down the starting spot down low for Oklahoma with redshirt junior Kur Kuath and redshirt sophomore Corbin Merritt expected to make contributions.
One of the most highly anticipated freshmen from the 2019 draft class is freshman guard De’Vion Harmon. Harmon was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and was one of the top 50 players nationally in the 2019 class.
Despite the hype, Harmon says he’s ready for his moment.
“I feel like I’m more ready than ever,” Harmon said. “This what I’ve worked so hard for. I mean, you spend hours and hours working in the gym, early mornings, late nights just for these moments. I’ve worked too hard for it not to come out the way I want it to.”
The Texas native will be starting in the backcourt alongside sophomore guard Jamal Bieniemy, who started 17 games during the 2018-19 season and averaged 4.9 points per game.
Bieniemy says he’s excited to work with Harmon this season.
“Yeah, he plays with a lot of intensity,” Bieniemy said. “ I feed off him and he feeds off me. He’s a playmaker, and we just try make plays for the team.”
Manek working to expand his game
Junior forward Brady Manek has been a threat primarily as a catch and shoot three-point shooter, but Kruger says he’s been impressed with Manek’s growth this offseason.
“Brady also, last year, is probably characterized as a catch-and-shoot, a three guy,” Kruger said. “I thought he could really move the ball down the floor, worked hard in the post (in Tuesday’s exhibition game). I’d like to see him at the free throw line a little more. Again, in every way, he’s been working hard to extend his game beyond just shooting the three pointer.”
Manek finished the game with a team-high 23 points on nine of 15 shooting and three of six from behind the three-point line. The Oklahoma native added eight rebounds, two assists and zero turnovers.
Manek says his growth as a player has been a long time coming.
“I’ve been trying to get bigger and stronger,” Manek said, “trying to prove I can play in the post, play against bigger guys. There’s been a lot of time spent trying to get bigger and stronger.”
Oklahoma will play its first regular season game at 7 p.m. CT on Nov. 5 in Norman against the University of Texas-San Antonio.