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June 10, 2014

Sooners wait and see for Thomas' waiver

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All six of Oklahoma's newcomers arrived to Norman on time this week. Sooners Bola Alade, Dante Buford, Khadeem Lattin, Jamuni McNeace, TaShawn Thomas and Dinjily Walker have begun summer courses and will participate in team activities.

No one's arrival was so anticipated as guard Isaiah Cousins arrival. OU coach Lon Kruger said Cousins, who was shot in his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y., late last month, arrived last Sunday with the rest of the team.

"He seems fine," said Kruger of Cousins at OU's Caravan stop at Schusterman Center in Tulsa. "Those things happen in the area where he's grown up."


After his turnaround season as a sophomore, Cousins will be an influential veteran in the Sooners' backcourt with last season's leading scorer Buddy Hield. Though Hield is coming off a solid sophomore season as an All-Big 12 second team selection, Kruger would like to see him become a more complete player as a junior.

During Hield's freshman season, he was much more prone to drive toward the basket and became and get to the foul line. In 2013-14, he became shooter, enamored with his shot beyond the arc.

"I thought his freshman year he was a little more of an active scorer," Kruger said, "a bit more active defensively, attacking the paint a little bit more. This past year he became a really good shooter, more of a catch-and-shoot guy and not as many free throws."

Hield took nearly three times as many 3-pointers as a sophomore than he did as a freshman, and his free throw shooting percentage dropped from 83.3 to 75.

"So I we gotta get that combination of the two years where's attacking more, and keep shooting it well," Kruger said. "But be more a of threat to get back in the paint and finishing at the free throw line if not the rim."

A more balanced Hield will take some of the burden off point guard Jordan Woodard to get to the basket and finish. That would also allow him to be more of the hardwood creator he is.

Woodard and Hield are getting help from a bolstered front court that adds a seasoned big body in Thomas and eager long bodies in Lattin and McNeace.

Thomas will play as a Sooner but it is more a question of when. Thomas, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound transfer from Houston, is appealing to the NCAA to allow him to play right away with a hardship waver.

"I don't know all the details at this point," Kruger said of Thomas' waiver. "Our compliance folks are putting that together and working on it. At the cornerstone would the change in coaches, and where it goes from there I'm not sure of the details."

OU might be one of the last programs to benefit from the hardship waiver policy. The NCAA announced a change to its policy last April.

Those student-athletes who elect to transfer would have to sit out a year after transferring. They will no longer be allowed to appeal with a waiver.

However, Thomas' decision to attend OU speaks to the direction the program is headed under Kruger. As does the tough non-conference schedule Kruger and his staff put together for next season.

"I like where we're at," Kruger said. "Always would like to be further and further along, further ahead. We're going to keep working at it. We're going to keep making progress."

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