The Oklahoma Sooners basketball team has been through some tough times over the past few years. No one knows that better than Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald. These two seniors joined the Sooners the year after Blake Griffin led Oklahoma basketball to the Elite Eight. They were part of the biggest recruiting class in former coach Jeff Capel’s tenure.
They were also part of the biggest recruiting flop of Jeff Capel’s tenure as the Oklahoma Sooners basketball coach.
What is interesting is the Pledger and Fitzgerald were both four-star recruits, but both men were overshadowed by McDonald’s All-American’s Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin. Those two players were supposed to lead OU back into the tournament, never missing a beat even with the loss of Blake Griffin. Those two players destroyed the OU basketball program and cost Jeff Capel his job.
On probation for recruitment violations involving Gallon, Oklahoma found themselves sinking in quicksand. Both Gallon and Mason-Griffin were selfish players, and the team spirit that thrived under Blake Griffin died. However, from the ashes rose Pledger and Fitzgerald. They were not the superstars of their recruiting class, but they were the real team players and the backbone of the team that Lon Kruger took over two years ago.
Kruger brought in other team-oriented players like Romero Osby and Sam Grooms, and tonight at the Lloyd Noble Center, these four seniors play their final regular season game together. A win tonight, and a good showing in the Big 12 tournament, should launch the Oklahoma Sooners back into the March Madness college basketball tournament.
Oklahoma Sooners fans believed their program would be regulars in the tournament when Pledger and Fitzgerald joined the team. Now, for their first time, they have a chance to put the Sooners back in the Big Dance. These two seniors came to OU together and became close friends, helping each other get through the tough times, and now thrive together as they helped the Sooners’ basketball team rise once again.
“We came in as a package and we thought we’d leave as a package; that’s the way we thought of it,” Pledger told the Norman Transcript in a recent interview.
The regular season ends tonight, but their playing time together is not over. There is one more chance at greatness for these players who played hard, as both friends and teammates, while the bigger names faded away and disappeared. Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald have the chance to take the Oklahoma Sooners basketball team dancing once again.
The Oklahoma Sooners men’s basketball team takes on the West Virginia Mountaineers at 8 p.m. CST tonight at the Lloyd Noble Center.