OU men's basketball: 3 takeaways from Sooners' first practice

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Lon Kruger

Lon Kruger, head coach of the OU men's basketball team, talks to his team during practice Sept. 24.

The Sooners officially began fall practice on Tuesday with a two-hour open practice.

A small crowd of Sooner fans gathered to ring in the new season, and they were treated to an Oklahoma squad that looks rejuvenated and ready to once again contend for a conference championship.

Game speed

Today was the first day of official practice, but the Sooners were not taking anything slow.

"First days now are a lot different than first days years ago, because we've been practicing since June," Kruger said. "First day used to be two-hand chest passing and control dribbling, and you had to work your way into it. We've been going for three months now because of the new rules, which is great."

One thing the coaching staff emphasized throughout practice was pace. Coaches were urging players to maintain a fast pace and a sense of urgency.

"Game speed!" assistant coach Jim Molinari's voice echoed through the practice facility.

Oklahoma may not be in midseason form yet, but they are well on their way. 

Kruger's ninth freshman class may be his best yet

Oklahoma's 2019 freshman class is the highest-rated class in the Kruger era. 

The class is ranked No. 14 in the country by Rivals and No. 20 by ESPN.

"It's a good freshman class," Kruger said. "Great attitudes, great work ethics, great basketball skill. I love what they've done all summer."

The obvious centerpiece of the class is De'Vion Harmon, a four-star point guard from Denton, Texas. But Harmon is not the only player in this class likely to make an immediate impact.

Both of Oklahoma's centers are fresh faces. Rick Issanza is a 7-foot-1 freshman from Scottsdale, Arizona. He joins Corbin Merritt, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Daytona State Junior College. 

Another key addition is Alondes Williams, a shooting guard transfer from Triton Junior College. 

"He's super bouncy," said Harmon about Williams. "He can jump out the gym. He's gonna do most of the dirty work for us. I'm excited about what he can bring to the table. Opposing teams are gonna have to game plan for him, that's the best part about him."

Jamal and De'Vion

Chemistry is a major question mark for the Sooners this season, given how many new players are expected to contribute. 

Fortunately for Kruger, his one-two punch of playmaking guards go way back.

"Me and (Jamal Bieniemy) have known each other since the second or third grade," Harmon said. "We played AAU ball together. We never played on the same team, but we knew each other and we knew how each other played."

Bieniemy came off the bench to begin last season but eventually won the starting point guard job during conference play. This season, he will likely spend more time off the ball, which does not seem to be bothering either Bieniemy or Kruger. 

"I just love to play basketball," Bieniemy said. "It doesn't really make a difference to me."

"They'll be out there together a lot," Kruger added. "De'Vion more at the point, Jamal more off. Jamal's probably shooting the ball as well as anyone we've got."

And for Harmon, his impact is already being felt by his teammates and coaches.

"He's a competitor," said Bieniemy about Harmon. "It's something you don't notice when you play against him. He talks a lot, he gets everybody involved. He fires the team up on offense and defense."

The Sooners finished with a 20-14 record last season. They advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual champion Virginia. 

Oklahoma will open its season against Prairie View on Nov. 11 at the Lloyd Noble Center. 

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