Jeff Capel’s OU basketball team is playing .500 percentage basketball just as their record insists. Basically, what this means is that they are playing a very conservative style of basketball. But this season can be salvaged before it’s too late just by making a few minor adjustments to the starting lineups and the roles that a few of the current starters are playing.
The first thing Capel needs to do is put the best five players on the court, period. We should look at it from a perspective of letting the player with the most potential earn the right to play his best style of game. If the Sooners can get into a position to allow at least four of the starting-five players to play in their natural positions, they are on their way to turning this thing around and salvaging a respectable season out of something that looks awfully shaky at best right now.
Fielding a starting-five of Steven Pledger and Cameron Clark at guard, Nick Thompson at center, Andrew Fitzgerald at power forward, and letting C.J Washington, Tyler Neal, and Barry Honoree battle for that final small forward position until Romero Osby is ready to take over next year.
Bringing Cade Davis off the bench would give the Sooners a specialist to come into the game in special situations where his best talents can be better utilized. Davis is a senior and has shown everyone that he can shoot the bottom out of a basket when he is in his element and into the flow of the game.
It would behoove Jeff Capel to put Cade Davis in a position to maximize his shooting skills to the best of his abilites. So far this season, by playing out of position, Cade Davis has not been the player everyone thought that he would be.
Carl Blair coming off the bench gives the Sooners a fresh true-point guard that could lead the press. The Sooners should run a full-court or half-court press at all times. This will allow them to gain a little control over the pace of the game by causing the other team to commit turnovers. Right now, they’re just sitting back and letting the other team dictate the flow and gain all of the momentum, and the results are not in their favor.
A plan such as this would give the current Sooners the best chance to win games utilizing their personnel to its’ maximum potential. When more players can play in their normal position, they tend to compete at a much higher level.
Capel would play these seven players and figure out a way to give them enough minutes to make an impact and establish a respectable average. It would behoove Coach Capel to implement a system like this so that it forces their opponents to play Sooner style basketball.
The present-day Sooner team doesn’t seem to be playing with a lot of confidence primarily because they are usually playing out of position and can’t get good-enough chemistry and repetition developed in the current offense with the current lineup situations that they have to play in.
Cameron Clark has the biggest upside of any player on this year’s team. So why not exploit his talents? Make him the first option and put him out there to average 18-20 points per game. He can do it. This is why OU recruited a player like Cameron Clark so therefore they need to utilize his talents. His dunks are the best thing going for this team so far this year. He needs more opportunities to catch alley-oops for dunks in order to get the team rolling.
Make sure that Carl Blair or another good passer is in the game to execute the lob passes to Cameron Clark. It has been proven that when Cameron Clark dunks, it not only hypes up the crowd, but it gives his team a considerable boost.
Next, work on Pledger, another guard. Let Pledger pick his spots and let him get a certain amount of looks and shots per game. He will continue to produce as he has all year, but even on a higher level.
Andrew Fitzgerald. He can be option three after Clark and Pledger. Go down low to him often and let him work his jelly from about ten foot out and in. You have to establish some type of low-post game every game, in order to have a chance at any success in the half-court offense.
Let Nick Thompson pop outside and shoot the three. No true big man on the other team is going to follow him out the three-point line to guard him. Nick has proven that he can shoot the three so put him in the position to shoot it.
Nick Thompson can add leadership, defense, hustle and intangibles that can really help the team. He can play heady defense similar to the way Nick Collison plays for The Oklahoma City Thunder. He can perfect the option of being a distraction in the paint and freeing-up his teammates by setting picks on offense. Challenge Cade Davis to average double figures off the bench and utilize his experience as his greatest asset.
Now the new strength and primary focus of the offense would shift to bringing Cade Davis off the bench and letting him specialize in shooting 3s. Bring him in, give him more minutes than a starter and let him get a look at what’s happening at the beginning of each game, prior to going into the game and picking his best spots. Make Tyler Neal Cade’s backup in this role.
You have to run a full-court press with this style of ball in order to get enough players enough looks and a chance to do what they do best, but the emphasis has to always be on playing good defense. If you look back to any of the teams that were successful running either a half-court or a full-court press, they usually won by dictating their own pace in the game.
Running a full-court or half-court press is going to require a constant recycling of fresh players and this is where players like Barry Honoree, Tyler Neal, T.J. Taylor, and even Calvin Newell can get a chance to hustle and shine. This team needs a boost. The lineup needs to be shaken up.
It has never been more important for Jeff Capel to look at his coaching style and what players he is putting into which situations out there on the basketball court. This year’s team has talent, but it is also very small and undersized at a few positions.
The very basis of this blue print means that Jeff Capel has to push the envelope and move outside of the box to try something new that may or may not produce more wins. But the bottom line is: he will be given credit for trying something different.
When you have a small and undersized team like this one, it would probably be best to implement either a full or half-court press to put your smaller and quicker athletes in the best position to utilize their greatests strengths so that they can produce at an even higher level within the team concept.
Jeff Capel is probably a much better coach that I am a writer, so at this point he really has nothing to lose and everything to gain by considering this blue print and making a few distinctive changes for the betterment of this year’s team.
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