Oklahoma basketball: Expect some new faces next season

With a new head coach of Oklahoma basketball, you can expect some changes to result, both in personnel and perhaps style of play.

Nothing particularly surprising about that state of affairs.

New head coach Porter Moser has said his philosophy and the way he likes his teams to play is closely aligned to the character, skill sets and fundamentals that Lon Kruger recruited to and coached by.

Let’s hope Moser also possesses some of the rebuilding skills and leadership that Kruger was famous for because the roster he inherits from this season’s 16-11 team is likely to be a bit on the lean side.

Seven of the scholarship players on the 2020-21 OU roster have either declared for the NBA Draft or have entered the free-agent pipeline better known as the transfer portal.

As of now, only two players who started at least half of the Sooner games this past season are expected to be back for the 2021-22 season: guards Elijah Harkless and Umoja Gibson, both of whom transferred to OU prior to last season. It’s also possible that four-year starter Brady Manek could be back next season with the new head coach having been named, although he has entered the transfer portal.

OU may only have six scholarship players returning in 2021-22

So it would appear Moser and his staff, which this week added former Texas and SMU assistant K.T. Turner, have some serious roster reinforcement ahead of them. With just one recruit signed for next season, four-star prospect C.J. Noland, the transfer portal is the logical place to turn to bring in additional talent.

That’s what Oklahoma did in planning for this past season, but the circumstances then were quite a bit different than they are this offseason. At this time a year ago, Oklahoma knew it had three full-time starters returning and three of the team’s top four scorers from the season before.

It’s not like there isn’t a large stockpile of talent available in the transfer portal that has been building following the final games of the just-ended college basketball season. The number is up over 1,200 currently, some of whom are already committed to a new school, but you would expect that OU will be giving a serious look at this recruiting pipeline.

Players in the transfer portal know that Oklahoma had a coaching change, but they are also aware of the widely acclaimed success that Moser had at Loyola Chicago, including advancing to the Final Four in 2017-18.

And here’s a bold thought. What if one or more of his Loyola players from this past season would elect to follow their former coach to play for him at Oklahoma next season, either as a graduate transfer or by taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is granting to student-athletes because of the COVID pandemic year?

Loyola’s leading scorer, senior Cameron Krutwig is likely headed to the NBA Draft, but senior Lucas Williamson was the Ramblers’ second leading scorer at 8.8 points a game. Keith Clemons also was a senior this past season. He and Wiiliamson could come back or become graduate transfers.

Clemons averaged 7.5 points and shot 44 percent from three-point range.

Then there’s Braden Norris, a redshirt sophomore, who averaged 8.5 points, shot 41 percent from behind the arc and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

Certainly something to think about, if it hasn’t already been contemplated.