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OU men's basketball: Elijah Harkless' eligibility, Trey Phipps' growth — 3 takeaways from Sooner basketball’s press conference

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Trey Phipps

Freshman guard Trey Phipps during the game against TCU in Fort Worth on Dec. 6.

The Sooners’ Monday press conference touched on junior guard Elijah Harkless’ eligibility, freshman guard Trey Phipps' confidence and the improved defense, two days after the Sooners’ 85-54 victory over Florida A&M. 

The Sooners play Oral Roberts and Houston Baptist this week on Dec. 16 and Dec. 19, respectively. 

Here’s 3 takeaways from the press conference:

Elijah Harkless expected to be immediately eligible

The NCAA Division I Council is expected to approve a waiver that will allow current rostered players immediate eligibility on Dec. 16, per The Athletic.

The news means that Harkless can be activated. The Cal State Northridge transfer has been awaiting confirmation on his eligibility since he announced his arrival April 14. Harkless has a chance to play for OU’s game against Oral Roberts barring the vote, but will likely be eased into playing again.

“He’ll take a bit,” Kruger said in the press conference, regarding how quickly he’d be ready to play. “Obviously when you’re not prepared for a game, it’s like he’s preparing for his first game, where we’ve had four under our belts. 

“But he’s practiced great, works hard. Very good feel for the game — understands what’s going on, clearly. So he’ll make adjustments as quickly as anyone could.”

Harkless averaged 10.7 points per game with 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists as a sophomore in 2019. 

Trey Phipps’ growing confidence

Freshman guard Trey Phipps has made the second-most 3s on the team this season, and is shooting an efficient 44 percent from 3. 

Phipps is the lone freshman on a team that starts four seniors, and is averaging 16 minutes per game despite competing with veterans. He attributed the adjustments he’s made from high school to college allowed him to play meaningful minutes off the bench for OU.

“Realistically, I didn’t know what to expect,” Phipps said on how many minutes he thought he would get this season. “I just had in my mind that I was gonna have to come in every day and compete. … I think a big part of me being able to get on the court early is on the defensive end. 

“Those adjustments, it’s difficult. Everybody’s bigger, faster, stronger, so being able to figure out where to be on the floor and keep guys in front of you has been very important to me.”

Defensive improvements

The Sooners lost 99-77 against Xavier on Dec. 9, giving up an Xavier school-record 19 3-pointers on defense.

“(We were) just really lacking on defense as a whole rather than just one person locked in,” senior guard Alondes Williams said about the loss to Xavier in Monday's press conference. “We need the whole team to lock in on defense so we can stop people from scoring so much.”

OU gave up just 54 points to Florida A&M two days later, and held them to 31.7-percent shooting.

“We can be very, very good,” Williams said. “I feel like we can go super far (this season) because our defense got way better than last year."

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