Sooners And Mavericks Playing For Far More Than Just Themselves
NORMAN — Soon after rumors of a Kansas and Missouri exhibition game reached the public, the entire college basketball world scrambled to set up one extra exhibition game for Hurricane Harvey relief. This was no different in Norman as Oklahoma and Texas-Arlington began to set up their exhibition game sometime around last Wednesday, and was ultimately approved by the NCAA on Friday before a formal release on Saturday.
For Oklahoma, this exhibition game will be more than just a game. The Sooners have three players on their roster (and one recruit currently committed) from the greater Houston area. The Hurricane caused historic damage to the area, but the families of Christian James, Kameron McGusty, and Khadeem Lattin did not see the brunt of it according to Lon Kruger. However, providing relief for those affected is still a major draw for this exhibition game.
“It’s huge. It’s depressing to see to what happened,” Kruger said on Monday after practice. “When you have young players from that area it even adds to the significance of doing something like that where all the proceeds go to the relief fund. Our guys want to do to that and they are excited about it.”
“That was a tough thing, watching the destruction that Harvey did…” Senior Forward Khadeem Lattin told SoonerSports.com. “…and now being one of those people that are able to donate a high amount, to do something big for my city, and to help recover with the hurricane relief is a big deal.”
This exhibition game will provide benefit for all involved, including both basketball teams. Coming off an 11-20 season a year ago, Kruger and Co. have infused this roster with talented freshmen looking to make an immediate impact. The only issue? These young guys have yet to play collegiate competition. The University of Texas-Arlington is not your normal exhibition team, either. The Mavericks are coming of a 27-win season that culminated with an NIT berth. This won’t be your normal October competition taking place in the Lloyd Noble Center.
“Absolutely,” Kruger voiced about the game jumpstarting the young group. “Scott Cross always does a great job (from) a coaching standpoint and preparation standpoint, and returns a very good team. So that’s good for our guys.”
The Mavericks did lose two starters from that 27-win group, but Cross returns the Sun Belt Player of the Year in 6’9″ forward Kevin Hervey (17.1ppg, 8.5rpg). UTA also brought in five new faces including JUCO transfer Kevin Hervey who averaged 12.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG at Hill College in Dallas. Cross’ group is looking to reload and not rebuild after their huge season a year ago. The Mavericks are projected to come out of the Sun Belt as their representative in the NCAA Tournament in March.
The Sooners and Mavericks exhibition game will tip-off at noon on Saturday at the Lloyd Noble Center. Oklahoma last saw action this summer during their trip to Australia where freshman point guard Trae Young lead the Sooners to a 4-0 record, including a win against the NBL’s Sydney Kings. The “Trip Down Under” provided great competition and camaraderie, but the Sooners first exhibition game will give them a nice dress rehearsal with the season quickly approaching.
There will be open seating as buying a ticket will not be required. It is encouraged for those making their way to donate $5 at the game via text message to the United Way Harvey Recovery Fund.