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Oklahoma men's basketball: Khadeem Lattin appears more comfortable with jump shot for Sooners

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Head basketball coach Lon Kruger

Head basketball coach Lon Kruger looks out to the court before the men's alumni basketball game at the Lloyd Noble Center Aug. 27.

On their third official day of practice, the Sooners worked on more game-like situations and drills and some things started to take initial shape.

Here are five takeaways from the day.

Khadeem’s expanding range.

The Sooners defensive anchor, Khadeem Lattin, continued to show off a comfort in the midrange on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Lattin sat off to the side and hit midrange jumper after midrange jumper when he wasn’t on the practice floor. At one point, Lattin drilled 18 straight from about 15 feet away. He shot the ball with ease and his mechanics looked solid.

On Wednesday, Lattin showed a willingness to float to the elbow rather than rolling to the basket after setting screens. On several instances, he caught the ball at the elbow and immediately launched a jumper. He attempted a three-pointer and later tried a pull-up from just inside the three-point line.

As he is asked to do more offensively in the absence of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins, it looks like Lattin will look to the midrange more and more for points.

Pair of injured Sooners

Sophomore forward Dante Buford and freshman forward Kristian Doolittle did not practice Wednesday.

Both went through the first two days of practice without any problems, but neither participated in team drills on Wednesday.

Buford spent some time on an elliptical bike near one of the corners of the Lloyd Noble practice floor and walked around the court for most of the afternoon, watching his teammates. He appeared to be holding his right leg on several occasions but didn’t walk with a noticeable limp.

Doolittle had his left foot iced to start the practice and left the practice floor for a brief period to go back to the training room.

Neither injury appeared to be serious, as both players walked around the court on their own.

Rough defense

For most of the afternoon, the Sooners’ team defense was shaky during five-on-five exercises.

It’s hard to really judge team defense when projected starters are scattered around with younger guys still learning the team concepts, but there were several breakdowns when trying to switch ball screens or guard the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop game.

Dribble penetration was another issue on the defensive side of the ball. Too often during full team drills, ball handlers were able to get past the first level of the defense with relative ease.

As practice continues, and players start to get more comfortable in Lon Kruger’s defensive system, those breakdowns should start to grow fewer and farther between, but the defense on Wednesday leaves plenty of room for growth.

A louder Christian James

There was a new voice in the Sooners' practice gym on Wednesday, one that wasn’t there much during the first two days.

Sophomore guard Christian James was one of the vocal leaders on Wednesday. He called out plays on defense, was the first to encourage teammates after successful drills and even pulled aside one of the freshmen guards to give him a few pointers.

During one-on-one guard drills, freshman point guard Jordan Shepherd bite on a pump fake from Jordan Woodard, who caught Shepherd in the air and ducked under for an easy layup. After the play, James pulled Shepherd aside to tell him something and pat him on the back of the head. Shepherd and Woodard ran the drill another time and Woodard tried another pump fake, this time Shepherd stayed down and blocked Woodard’s shot. James jumped out of line to congratulate Shepherd.

James wasn’t just loud with his voice — he also let his game speak up on the day. James looked locked in when playing defense and was incredibly aggressive on the boards. James’ athleticism is going to give him the chance to be one of the Big 12’s better rebounding guards this season, and he had that on full display Wednesday.

Where does CJ Cole fit in?

Forward CJ Cole is a senior who has never started in a game during his first three years at Oklahoma. He has only appeared in 35 games total over those three seasons and has 14 career points.

Despite all that, Cole could be in line for a much bigger role in his final season thanks to the loss of Ryan Spangler and the resulting big hole in the frontcourt. Over the first three days of practice, Cole has flashed it all. He scored six straight baskets during a one-on-one post drill, using a variety of hooks, fakes and spin moves to create space under the basket. He guarded well in the post given his undersized 6-foot-7 frame. He even stepped outside the three-point line when teaming up with center Jamuni McNeace on Wednesday, knocking down a few contested looks.

If Cole can continue to provide solid post defense and a multifaceted game on offense, he could crack the Sooners’ rotation.

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