Sooners open in Preseason NIT
Monday, November 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ No. 25 Oklahoma opens its basketball season Monday night against Central Connecticut in the Preseason NIT, ready or not.
``I think this time of year, you'd always like to work on something else,'' coach Kelvin Sampson said Sunday. ``But the team we're playing, it's their first game, too.''
The Sooners have a new look from last year, when they went 26-7, won the Big 12 Tournament and then lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The only returning starters are guard Hollis Price and forward Aaron McGhee. Price averaged 11.8 points and led the team with 4.8 assists per game. McGhee averaged 12.9 points per game but battled inconsistency brought on by foul trouble.
They are expected to be joined in the starting lineup by guards Quannas White and Ebi Ere and forward Jozef Szendrei. The 6-foot-7 Ere has been outstanding in the two exhibition games and will be looked upon to provide a scoring punch.
Szendrei, who sat out last year due to a knee injury, has given the Sooners a thick body inside to help on the backboards.
``I think the thing I'm most pleased with is the progress we made from our first exhibition game to the second, in terms of acceptance of roles,'' Sampson said. ``Everybody is fitting in better.
``We have four brand new guards,'' he said, referring to White, Ere, Jason Detrick and Blake Johnston. ``Our inexperience showed in the first exhibition game. In the second game we played with a lot more cohesiveness, with a better understanding of how to help each other.''
Sampson said he wants his team to attack the backboards at both ends of the floor Monday night and push the pace when possible. The goal is to get as many easy baskets as possible, something Sampson says this team should be able to do better than others he has had at Oklahoma.
Central Connecticut _ located in New Britain _ was 14-14 a year ago. The Blue Devils have three starters back from that team, including 6-foot-9, 280-pound Corsley Edwards, who averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds last season.
``He'll wind up being the all-time leading scorer in the history of their school,'' Sampson said. ``They've got a really quick point guard and a bunch of 6-7 kids. This is a good-looking team.''
Monday's game is at 7 p.m. If the Sooners win, they will play the winner of Michigan State-Detroit game.