HOUSTON — For Buddy Hield, the allure of winning the 2016 Naismith Trophy as college basketball’s best player gave him another reason to flash that million-dollar smile on Sunday morning.
But after Hield’s Oklahoma Sooners were mashed 95-51 by Villanova on Saturday night in a national semifinal at NRG Stadium — the worst Final Four blowout in college basketball history — it had to be hard to get out of bed.
“Yes, it was,” Hield said after receiving the Naismith Trophy from the Atlanta Tipoff Club at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Houston. “I slept last night for the first time. I just turned my phone off and I felt like I got rested last night. It’s cool. Best of luck to Villanova tomorrow night. It still kind of sucks not fulfilling all your dreams and winning a national championship but like I said, life goes on and the best is yet to come to me.”
Presumably, that will include the Wooden Award next week, the NBA Draft in June, and, maybe, some more sleep.
“No, I never sleep,” Hield said. “It’s one of the biggest moments of your life. College basketball, every game, every night, you’re playing twice every weekend so, just tough trying to sleep thinking about the games so much, but it’s been cool though. It’s been a fun journey.
“That’s what basketball does to you. You’re just thinking about the game so much. You can’t get it off your mind. (Saturday night), I was able to get if off my mind. I’ve got other things on my mind now, other things to do.”
Hield won the award over finalists Denzel Valentine of Michigan State, Tyler Ulis of Kentucky and Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia, who were all in attendance.
Hield ranked second nationally in scoring this season at 25.4 points per game, and his 3-point shooting percentage (.465 going into Saturday) ranked fourth in the nation.
But on the biggest of stages, in the Final Four, he made 4-of-12 shots and only 1-of-8 from 3-point range. He finished his career by scoring just nine points.
“It’s kind of tough coming out here,” Hield said. “Not knowing what’s going on but just hoping, it’d be good if I get the award. But I’m still thinking about last night, but life goes on. What Villanova did to us last night — they really kicked our butt. But I’m just glad to be in this position. I’d rather be at the Final Four than sitting on my couch watching somebody else get beat by 50. I’m just happy to be here. God’s blessed me and my teammates with so much opportunities. It’s been fun. It’s been fun. I’ll never forget it.”
OU coach Lon Kruger seemed surprised when he was told that Hield hasn’t been sleeping.
“That’s understandable,” Kruger said. “It’s important to him, and everyone handles that differently.”
Kruger said an historic loss on a global stage doesn’t take away from what Hield and his teammates — primarily Isaiah Cousins, Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard, who started the last 105 games in a row together — built at OU.
“Last night doesn’t diminish what he and his group accomplished, the impact they had, and will continue to have for many years after they’re gone from our program,” Kruger said. “They’ve been fantastic. Last night wasn’t fun, but that doesn’t take away from it.
The sun came up after all on Sunday morning.
“It did. You wondered if it would last night, but it did,” Kruger said. “It was so disappointing for the guys to have that last game like that. They’ll get over it and recall all the great things they’ve done, the impact they’ve had and how much they’ll be appreciated going forward. They’re a special group.”
Led by a special player, who got a consolatory text message from Valentine after the game before deciding that one would be enough.
“Everybody was texting me,” Hield said. “It was kind of frustrating. I put my phone aside and I was just relaxing, just trying to clear my mind so I could get some sleep.”
When was the last time that happened?
“I can’t tell you, to be honest with you,” Hield said. “I’m always up just thinking about the games, the next game, conference games, thinking about how somebody is gonna guard me and watching film or how can I go off. Just a day in the life of basketball. It’s something you’ve gotta live with. But it’s fun. It’s something I look forward to every day.”
If he doesn’t sleep much at night, surely college basketball’s best player gets by with an afternoon nap every now and then?
“No,” he said. “I don’t believe in naps, to be honest with you.”