Young taking his talents to the NBA

By Michael Kinney

In what may have been the worst kept secret in college basketball was made official Tuesday when freshman Trae Young announced he was leaving Oklahoma to make himself available for the NBA draft.

It’s a move most saw as a possibility the day Young committed to the Sooners as a senior at Norman North. But it became more and more evident over the course of his freshman campaign that he would not be long for the college game.

“Coach Lon Kruger and his staff started to recruit me as a ninth-grader at Norman North High School, and I trusted him from the beginning,” said Young. “As much as anything, Coach Kruger taught me about poise, about handling pressure and difficult circumstances with calm and clear-mindedness.”

Young wasn’t as heralded as some of the freshmen who entered the 2017-18 season. Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr was considered the top player in the class and Alabama’s Collin Sexton was seen as the best point guard.

Yet, it didn’t take long for Young to quickly become a force and put the OU basketball program back on the national scene.

At 6-foot-2, Young is the first player in NCAA Division I history to finish the season leading the country in both scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7).

Young’s 27.4 points per game mark the highest scoring average ever recorded by an Oklahoma or Big 12 player. His 8.7 dimes per game are good for the best assist average in OU history and are second in Big 12 history only to Doug Gottlieb of Oklahoma State (8.8 assists per game in 1998-99).

According to the Sooners, Young is the first major-conference player in NCAA Division I history to total 800 points and 250 assists in the same season, finishing the year with 876 points and 279 assists.

“We’re extremely pleased for Trae,” Kruger. “He had the type of season that deserves this attention and put him in the position that he’s in now. We’re very excited for him going forward and the next chapter in his basketball career. We expect it to all work out for him in a fantastic way.”

Young’s season didn’t go without its difficulties. After a blistering start where he seemed to be the run-away choice for the Player of the Year in the Big 12 and in the nation, Oklahoma hit a rocky patch once it entered conference play.

After beating Kansas on Jan. 23, the Sooner won only three more games. And they didn’t win a single game away from Lloyd Noble Center in 2018.

During the postseason, was one and done in the Big 12 tourney and the NCAA tourney, where many college basketball analysts didn’t think OU belonged.

I will regret that I didn’t help the Sooners win a national championship. I have always wanted to honor the legacies of Wayman Tisdale, Blake Griffin and Buddy Hield, OU legends who led the program to Elite Eights and Final Fours,” Young told ESPN. “I wanted to take the Sooners the distance — all the way to a national championship. When I chose OU, I imagined I’d have more than one chance at the NCAA tournament, but things changed and this season became my only opportunity.”

According to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, Young will be a lottery pick and has him going to Chicago with the No. 8 pick.

Several have stated Young is not ready for the grind of the NBA. Young doesn’t seem to mind the doubters.

“I know there will be doubts again as I prepare for the draft,” Young told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “I don’t pretend to be ready to play in the NBA today, but I am determined to do what I’ve always done: invest in the work to prepare for the league and the incredible challenges it presents. I’m going to start training immediately for the draft, building up strength throughout my body, sharpening my skills and studying the best of the best. I’ll never regret a moment I spent at the University of Oklahoma, or my decision to stay home and become a Sooner for life.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer for Eyeamtruth.com

 

Westbrook racks up weekly award

By Michael Kinney

Russell Westbrook’s recent level of play has not gone unnoticed around the NBA. Coming off his fifth straight triple-double and six straight wins for the Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from March 12 through 18.

During that span, the Thunder racked up a 4-0 record. That included Sunday afternoon’s win over the East-leading Toronto Raptors.

Over the four-game stretch, Westbrook posted a triple-double in each game while averaging 25.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 12.0 assists. He also shot .526 (41-78 FGs) from the field.

Westbrook is on the verge averaging a triple-double for the second straight season. He also surpassed 100 career triple-doubles last week.

Heading into Oklahoma City’s matchup with Boston Tuesday, Westbrook is riding a streak of five consecutive triple-doubles. It’s a mark he has already done twice in his career.

The reigning MVP is putting up record-breaking numbers in all areas of his game. He handed out his 6,000th assist on March 18 at Toronto. He joined Cleveland’s LeBron James as the only active players with at least 6,000 assists and 4,800 rebounds and just the 13th NBA player to do so.

On the season Westbrook is averaging 25.3 points, a league-leading 10.2 assists, 9.7 rebounds and 1.79 steals in 36.2 minutes. He has now earned Player of the Week honors two times this season and 17 times in his career.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Struggles continue for WVU tennis

NORMAN, Okla. — Coach Miha Lisac thinks it’s about time. It’s been six seasons since the WVU women played their first Big 12 tennis match, and in all that time they have yet to make a mark in the conference win column.

It’s a feat that has not gone unnoticed.

“This is still very much as a young program, as a young team, and we have been working on building this program to the point to where we will belong into the Big 12,” Lisac said. “Not just against certain teams but against everybody. Now to get there, there is a little bit of a path to take.”

Since 2013, the Mountaineers are 0-47-1 against Big 12 opponents. The latest defeat came March 16, at No. 50 Oklahoma.

The final tally was 4-2. But the Mountaineers (4-6, 0-1 Big 12) came out of it believing they let an opportunity to get that first conference win slip away.

“Unfortunately, today, we kind of let a couple of those (matches) slip through our fingers, so the end result was too far down,” Lisac said. “But with the amount of opportunities we had, we absolutely had the opportunities to turn this match into our favor, so that’s the positive that we’re taking out of today.”

Yet, the WVU coaches and athletes do not believe it is a disparity in talent that has caused them to be unsuccessful in the Big 12. With the likes of Giovanna Caputo, Lyn Yuen Choo and Paula Goetz, they can hang with most teams.

However, it’s the mental head games the Mountaineers play on themselves that they must overcome.

“I guess to get past it, just stand your ground the whole time and just keep believing and fighting,” freshman Anne-Sophie Courteau said. “Pretty much all the matches are close, so you know that you’re able to compete well against them and just keep playing the same game plan and keep going through your shots.”

Lisac agrees it is not a talent problem. WVU won its share of individual matches when taking on even some of the best teams in the conference.

Yet, when it’s time to take that step from being a threat to a contender, WVU has come up short.

“One of the things we have to kind of own is, we need to believe. Where the program has been in the past, that belief doesn’t necessarily come automatically,” said Lisac, who is in his fourth year at WVU. “In the past, the program wasn’t always competitive in the Big 12, so in order for us to start to believe more and more and more, we have to be putting ourselves in positions.”

When Lisac talks about taking a path to success, it means getting to the point where they no longer accept being close.

“One of those matches we will be able to close in our favor, and that’s going to turn the tide completely for us,” Lisac said. “So, it’s still kind of a building process into getting to that point but belief is huge in that way.”

Today, the Mountaineers have another opportunity to break through the Big 12 ceiling they have been hitting for five seasons. They face No. 19 Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

The Cowgirls are 9-1 on the season and opened their Big 12 slate Saturday, against Iowa State. Their loss was a 4-2 battle to No. 11 Ole Miss, in January.

“Oklahoma State is just like Oklahoma,” Lisac said. “I mean, a very talented team. They’ve had a good program for a long time and we know that they will come ready to play, that they’re not going to just necessarily just give us opportunities. We will have to go out and prepare those opportunities, but I want to see us continue to get better and better at closing those opportunities out when they are there.”

Story appeared in The Dominion Post

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer for Eyeamtruth.com

Finding Neverland hits the mark

(Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY– For all intents and purposes, Finding Neverland is the backstory on how Peter Pan was created. However, the actual musical that hit Oklahoma City is much more than that.

Presented by OKC Broadway, Finding Neverland started its run March 13 at the Civic Center Music Hall and will run through March 18.

The Broadway musical is based on the 2004 film that starred Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet and the Allan Knee play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan.

The musical stars Will Ray as writer J.M. Barrie and tells the struggles he endured in writing the play Peter Pan in the late 1800s. It also delves into the relationship he built with Sylvia Llewelyn (Lael Van Keuren) and her four young boys whom he met in the park while trying to finish a new play.

One of the four kids who belong to the single mother was a very sad young boy named Peter (Connor Jameson Casey). Ever since the death of their father a year before, he had lost his spirit for fun and games. Barrie made it his mission to help Peter find that spark to the detriment of his job, his standing in society and his marriage.

In the process, Barrie also finds the childlike wonderment he had lost, which causes even more problems for him.

“As soon as you find the smallest bit of happiness in this world, someone is there to try and take it away,” said Barrie.

All in all, the Finding Neverland story is very formulaic. Set in England, it features the common theme of pitting the stuffy, boring, high society, old money crowd against a new generation that wants to enjoy life.

While that storyline would normally bore at this point, what made Finding Neverland interesting was that it just wasn’t about Barrie breaking away from a class of people he had nothing in common with. It was about having the courage to do what he was meant to in life, regardless of what others thought.

During the song “Stronger”, the character of Captain Hook (played wonderfully by John Davidson) tells Barrie “A man who is not willing to fight for what he wants, deserves what he gets.”

For me, that simple statement is the foundation of Finding Neverland, and Ray portrayed that inner struggle to great effect. He had to find out whether he was willing to give up everything he had built in his life to be the man he was meant to be. That is a very deep theme I wasn’t expecting.

The rest of the play pretty good. However, the sad kid act of Peter got kind of annoying, as did the relationship between Llewelyn and her snobby mother (Karen Murphy), but that is only because I’ve seen that dynamic too many times before.

The musical numbers go perfectly with the mood of each corresponding scene. From “When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground” to “Circus of Your Mind,”  which has four parts, they help push along the story.

I went into Finding Neverland thinking this was not going to be my type of show. I assumed it would be too fluffy and too kid-centric. It turned out to be entertaining and insightful, for young and old.

The article ran in the Yukon Review

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Brewer to get first start with Thunder

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY – After only two games in an Oklahoma City uniform, Corey Brewer will be getting his first start with his new team when the Thunder host Phoenix.

According to coach Billy Donovan, his looking for improvements on the defensive side of the ball and wants to see Brewer run with the starters.

“I want to just see what that looks like with the starting group,” Donovan said. “It’s probably more on me wanting to see what Corey looks like with this group more than something Josh (Huestis) has not done. Josh has done a really good job for us. But I also think the experienced part, the defensive part, I want to see what that looks like.”

Oklahoma City is coming off back to back losses to Portland and Houston. In both games, Donovan was not happy with the overall team defense.

Donovan hopes the addition of Brewer into the lineup will help give a spark to the defensive effort.

“Josh has done a good job. He has done well. He has stepped up in the absence of Andre (Roberson) and done nice,” Donovan said. “I think with Corey being here for two games and a limited amount of time, we can see what that lineup looks like with Corey out there. We can always go back to Josh.”

Brewer signed with the Thunder last week after having his contract bought out by the Los Angles Lakers. In his two games with the Thunder, he has played a total of 34 minutes off the bench and scored 10 points (all against Houston).

On the season, Brewer is averaging 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds. But it’s his defense that Donovan is hoping will make the biggest difference for a team that is on the brink of finding not making the postseason.

“I think it’s a matter of everybody stepping up and doing a little bit more,” Donovan said. ” It’s not necessarily one player. It’s got to be our team collectively as a group.”

MIchaelKinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

WVU a true bubble team

 

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Mike Carey is a straight talker. The WVU coach doesn’t sugar coat his answers when he is unhappy with his team’s performance or much less anything.

However, even Carey seemed to be at a loss for words Sunday night when he was asked where does his team now stand when it comes to getting a bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I don’t know,” an exasperated Carey said. “We’ll see. I have no idea. I don’t know.”

The question came after Carey’s Mountaineers were eliminated from the Big 12 Championships with a 68-55 loss to No. 2 seed Texas.

Not only was the loss the third of the season to the Longhorns, WVU didn’t look a team that could compete at any point. That is not the impression they wanted to give off as they try to sneak into the NCAA tourney.

“The difference is I felt like we played with less heart this game,” senior point guard Chania Ray said. “Some people came to play and some didn’t and it’s not all about offense — everybody can play defense the whole game and I think that’s just one thing we lock lacked. Other than that it was the same team, same game, minus a couple, but we just didn’t dig within ourselves to pull through.”

Carey didn’t totally agree with Ray that some players didn’t come to play. However, the team didn’t do themselves any favors with the style they tried to play.

“I don’t think they didn’t come to play. I think at times they didn’t listen tonight. We can’t stand out there and keep shooting threes,” Carey said. “Our legs are tired. Like players said, every timeout, every time down I tried to run quick hitters that were driving and getting to the thing, but we kept shooting threes. We could have got a three anytime in the shot clock. But we were taking it early in the shot clock and like they said we were hitting the bottom of the rim which led to layups for them on the other side.”

The women’s Basketball Committee will reveal its 64 team field March 12.

Since 2007, WVU has only missed the NCAA tournament twice, in 2009 and 2015. They have made it to the big dance the last two seasons.

After going 1-1 during the Big 12 Championships, WVU ran its record to 21-11. That gives them the third-best overall record in the conference.

While the top three teams in conference play — Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State — seem to be locks for the tourney, three other squads fall into the bubble category. They include Oklahoma (16-14, 11-7 Big 12), TCU (16-12, 9-9) and WVU.

Even though the Big 12 has four teams with at least 20 wins and another one game away, the conference doesn’t have the notoriety or respect of some of the other major conferences this season. Carey says that will be taken into account by the NCAA selection committee next week.

“I’m not sure what the RPI for the league is, but I know it’s not great, and that’s why,” Carey said. “I think if you saw the Big Ten last year they’re third place team didn’t go because of their RPI of the league. It comes down to that, mostly.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

Mountaineers looking to repeat at Big 12s

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — In 2017, the WVU women’s basketball team did the improbable. The Mountaineers took home the Big 12 tournament championship after finishing the regular season with a record under .500.

Not only did the Mountaineers earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, but they also had to beat three ranked teams in order to do it.

WVU finds itself in the same position again heading into the 2018 Big 12 tournament, at Chesapeake Arena. With the same 8-10 conference record and No. 6 seed, the Mountaineers are hoping lightning will strike twice for them.

You know it’s all about defending your title. Any team wants to do that,” WVU’s Chania Ray said. “We just have to kind of do what it takes and do what we didn’t do early in the season. Every little detail matters, so we have to take care of the little things, and obviously, we want to win it again.

Who wouldn’t?”

However, coach Mike Carey is quick to point out that this year’s squad doesn’t have the same makeup as the one that beat Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor to claim the 2017 crown.

It’s not the exact same players either. Last year, coming in here, we had Lanay Montgomery and Tynice Martin playing,” Carey said. “But we do have three players that played in that tournament, Katrina Pardee, Chania Ray and Teana (Muldrow), so they know what to expect. The rest of them really weren’t on the team. We have some other veterans, but they’re hurt and not playing, so really it’s those three.”

Carey has been critical of his squad at times this year. He didn’t hold back on what he has seen as some of the team’s issues on the eve of another postseason run.

We need to find five people that’ll play hard for 40 minutes, and play consistent,” Carey said. “Last year at this time, we were doing that, and here at the end of the season, we weren’t playing consistent, and we had some players not playing hard. We know this is if you lose, you go home, so hopefully we’ll come out and play that way.”

WVU (20-10, 8-10 Big 12) will face No. 3 seed Oklahoma State (20-9, 11-7 Big 12) in the quarterfinals at 9:30 p.m. March 3. In the two match-ups against the Cowgirls during the regular season, the Mountaineers came up on the losing end.

Despite that, WVU knows what it has to do in order to have success.

First and foremost, we need to play defense, and lock into doing what we know how to do,” Muldrow said. “Coach is really big on defense. He’s the defensive coach, so we do what we know how to do, and just play defense, and move the ball and get space in, things like that, and we’ll be fine.”

While Carey has not been happy with the inconsistent play of his Mountaineers this season, he is hoping the postseason inspires them to play at a level he has rarely seen this season.

If you can’t get up for the tournament, you’re probably not going to get up for any game,” Carey said. “The problem is, every team down here, they know this is their last game, so everybody’s going to play a little bit harder, go a little bit tougher. So, we’ll see. We’ve got to come out. Needless to say, we’re not very deep, so we need to stay out of foul trouble, and then people coming in off the bench need to play hard and contribute.”

For Muldrow, Ray and the rest of the seniors, no matter what happens this weekend, this will be the final Big 12 tournament for them. They can’t think of a better way to close out their careers than to do the improbable for the second straight year.

We want to go out the same way we did last year, but just to know this is my last time I’ll be playing in OKC in this tournament, it’s kind of like a bittersweet moment,” Ray said. “Obviously, we’re going to give it our all, and I’m personally going to give it my all, and hopefully we can get the same results as last year.”

Notes:

The Women’s Big 12 Tournament is being held in Oklahoma City for the sixth time. It’s the fourth time in the last five years that the tournament has made Oklahoma City its home.

Single-Session tickets are $25, $20 and $10. All spectators over the age of 2 must have a ticket to enter the arena.

The first session was played on Friday night with the play-in games for No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Kansas State, No. 9 Kansas and No. 10 Texas Tech. Two sessions are on Saturday and one session each on Sunday and Monday.

Baylor earned the No. 1 seed after winning its eighth-consecutive and ninth overall Big 12 regular season title. The Lady Bears’ (28-1, 18-0) undefeated conference season was the fifth in Big 12 history.

The rest of the seeds include No. 2 Texas, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 TCU, No. 6 West Virginia, No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Kansas State, No. 9 Kansas and No. 10 Texas Tech.

After closing the season by winning six of their last seven games, the Sooners head into the tournament playing at their best.

“It’s not about our record, certainly not about my record, it’s about what can we teach our team,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “The reason our team has played so well in February is because we played Oregon, UConn, South Dakota State and DePaul in November and December.”

Oklahoma will take on TCU at 11 a.m. Saturday in the first game of the quarterfinals at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. If they win, they will play again at 2 p.m. Sunday in the semifinals.

Eight different teams have won the previous 21 women’s championships, led by Baylor with eight titles.

The tournament will have special themes each night of the event. Saturday is Teacher Appreciation Night Day in which 30 Oklahoma City area teachers from seven different districts will be honored.

The teachers (K-6) were nominated by their students as part of the “My Teacher, My Hero” promotion ran earlier this year in Oklahoma City. The “My Teacher, My Hero” initiative was intended to honor those educators that have made a positive impact on their students’ lives. Each student submitted a 250 words or less essay describing the teachers’ beneficial impact.

Thirty teachers from around the state will be recognized at halftime of the Oklahoma-TCU contest.

Sunday is Military Appreciation Night.

All active duty military, military veterans and teachers with a valid military or school ID can purchase a $5 general admission ticket for each session at the arena box office.

All games will be shown on the Fox Sports Networks.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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