HOUSTON — Sitting next to one of basketball’s true icons, Buddy Hield more than held his own.
Shoulder-to-shoulder with the legendary Oscar Robertson, Hield on Friday was named winner of this year’s Oscar Robertson Trophy as college basketball’s best player.
Hield — quickly becoming something of an icon himself in Oklahoma basketball circles — has led his Oklahoma Sooners teammates to the Final Four, where on Saturday they’ll meet Villanova in a national semifinal.
Hield needs 17 points to pass Wayman Tisdale for the most prolific single-season scoring total in OU history, and he needs just four points to pass Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn as the Big 12 Conference’s career scoring leader. With 67 points this weekend at NRG Stadium, he’ll pass Glen Rice for the NCAA Tournament record.
“He does things you don’t have to even think about,” Robertson said of Hield. “That’s what makes him great.”
Hield just missed winning the Associated Press player of the year award on Thursday — it’s a regular-season award, and voters gave it to Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine by a mere three votes — but the totality of Hield’s season and postseason (and Valentine’s hasty first-round exit) make Buddy a virtual lock to receive college basketball’s big three: the Robertson, the Naismith and the Wooden.
Hield will get the Big O Trophy on April 11 during the College Basketball Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Blake Griffin in 2009 was OU’s only other Oscar Robertson Trophy winner.
OU head coach Lon Kruger said Hield — the Big 12’s two-time player of the year — also might have made a case this season as the Big 12’s most improved player after bumping his scoring average from 17.4 points per game to 25.4, his shooting percentage from 41.2 to 50.4 and his 3-point shooting percentage from 35.9 to 46.5.
“That’s saying something when your starting point already was player of the year,” Kruger said.
Hield said he felt like he always had the confidence to be here someday, playing for national championships and winning MVP awards, but Kruger said it was his unyielding work ethic that fortified that confidence.
Now, what will Hield’s legacy be? A great player who took his team to the Final Four? Or a legend who won a national championship?
“There’s no pressure these games,” Big O told Hield. “This is what you live for.”