Oklahoma basketball: Porter Moser facing yet another rebuild for 2023-24

Feb 18, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Porter Moser signals to players during the first half against the Texas Longhorns at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Porter Moser signals to players during the first half against the Texas Longhorns at Moody Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

Five players remain from the 15-member, 2022-23 Oklahoma basketball roster.

As has been the case in Porter Moser’s first two seasons in Norman, the head coach is going to have to turn to the transfer portal to replenish the losses and reengineer the Sooner roster for the coming season.

Since OU played its last game this season in the Big 12 Tournament, seven players have moved on Five have elected to move on via the transfer portal and, one, Grant Sherfield, declared for the NBA Draft and Tanner Groves has exhausted his eligibility.

That’s 75 percent of the Sooners’ scoring and rebounding production gone from a team that was just 15-17 this season and 5-13 and in last place in the Big 12. The glass-half-full crowd would argue that the Sooner would be better off rebuilding because the players leaving weren’t able to get the job done, anyway.

The other side of that argument, of course, is: How many times is Sooner men’s basketball going to have to restock practically the entire team seemingly after every season?

It’s not that Moser isn’t a good college basketball coach or might be over his head in a conference as good as the Big 12 has been in recent years — and may even get stronger in basketball with the four schools that will become members before this fall — it’s more about the world we live in today in college sports.

Transfer portal making player retention harder than ever before

There’s no question that the combination of the extra Covid year, the transfer portal and Name, Image Likeness have completely changed the athletic landscape and made it more difficult to retain continuity from year to year. Oklahoma is not the only major school experiencing this situation. But it is also true that a non-winning program is more vulnerable to the depth of the roster displacement the Sooner men’s program is facing than other more successful programs.

Players may like the head coach and what he is building, but they also want to play, and preferably play for a winning team, not one that gets kicked around and can’t seem to get over the hump and find ways to win games.

This is a critical time for Oklahoma basketball. Faced with this same dilemma his last two years on the job, Moser must not only find players to fill out the roster, but ones that will ultimately make a difference on the floor.

The Sooners need more consistent shooting. The prolonged scoring droughts they experienced in a number of games the past two seasons has proven very costly in the win column. They also need more size in the front court and more athleticism throughout the roster.

This is the same wish list that most college basketball teams have, which makes it tough on teams like Oklahoma to attract and get the best talent available in the transfer portal.

Replacements in progress

Moser does have a couple of top-100 recruits coming in the Sooners’ 2023 class. Kaden Cooper is a four-star, 6-foot, 5–inch small forward and potential swing player ranked as the No. 15 player at his position in the 2023 class, according to 247Sports. Jacolb Cole is also a four-star prospect, listed as a 6-foot, 7-inch small forward and ranked No. 23 at his position and 95th overall.

The transfer portal window officially opened a month ago, and Moser and his staff have been actively performing their recruiting due diligence to match up needs with best fits among the vast number of transfers available.

Oklahoma had initial transfer visits from a couple of players that have drawn a lot of interest from the Sooner coaching staff. Javian McCollum, a 6-foot, 2-inch guard who played the last two season at Sienna for Rick Patino, and Jayden Nunn, a 6-foot, 4-inch guard prospect who has played two seasons for Virginia Commonwealth, were on campus in Norman to check out the OU program as a possible landing spot.

The visit by McCollum and Nunn coincided nicely with the report last week by multiple sources that Armon Gates is joining Moser’s staff after serving as an assistant at Oregon last season. Gates was on Moser’s staff at Loyola Chicago from 2011-13 and has a reputation for strong guard development. After Loyola Chicago, Gates was at Northwestern for five years and Nebraska for four before going to Oregon.

McCollum, a Florida native, averaged 15.9 points for Siena this past season along with 3.9 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game. Nebraska, Creighton and South Florida are also reportedly interested in McCollum.

Nunn’s offensive numbers aren’t as impressive as McCollum’s, but he possesses a motor and athleticism that the Sooners are direly lacking. Nunn averaged 9.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in 2022-23, but he also had 16 double-digit scoring performances.

Oklahoma is expecting a visit this coming weekend by former East Carolina guard Javon Small, according to staff writer Bob Przybylo, a staff writer for Sooner Scoop, affiliated with Rivals.com. Small averaged 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 2022-23. It appears the Sooners will get some competition from Notre Dame for Small. He is from South Bend, Indiana, where Notre Dame is located.

It’s good to see that the Sooners have their sights set on several talented guards.
But the few players that remain on the roster include freshman guards Milos Uzan and Otega Oweh, who ended the season in the starting lineup. Moser and Co. also better be probing the portal pipeline for some talented forwards/centers with shooting skills and size, as well.