Lattin And Teammates Ready To Put Last Year Behind Them
The 2016-2017 season was a season to remember…for all the wrong reasons. The eleven wins are the least amount of wins in a season at Oklahoma since Billy Tubbs’ squad only won nine in 1980-1981. Fortunately for Oklahoma, they can actually build on something from last season–they had leads or were tied in the second half in fourteen of their twenty losses. With senior Jordan Woodard battling injuries for most of the year, Lon Kruger’s young team went through some growing pains that most teams do not get the chance of going through.
Oklahoma last went on a foreign trip in the summer four years ago, meaning that this was their year to be able to take advantage of the NCAA’s opportunity of going out-of-the-country for a trip and play exhibition games. This trip also opened up ten full practices that the NCAA allows teams’ going on a foreign trip to have beforehand. The season is still three months away, but Oklahoma is already looking for redemption from a year ago.
“Just redemption? Ya know?” Khadeem Lattin said after practice on Monday. “We had some setbacks last year, this upcoming year we won’t have any of those and we are going to take care of what we have to take care of. On and off the court. We are just going to be dogs and competitors and whatever else it takes.”
“It was very difficult. I don’t think anybody on our team was on a losing team like that, so we definitely didn’t enjoy it.” Kameron McGusty explained about last season. “At one point we decided we were going to play our hardest and learn from everything and carry this over to next year, and that’s what we did towards the end. We started fighting. Every game was close. It was that last step. I think we got that last step down this year.”
Trae Young is the new kid on the block, but he can even tell a difference in the atmosphere at the LNC.
“We’re looking really good.” Young said. “Everybody is gelling. Everybody is getting extra workouts in when they don’t have to. Working extra hard. Eating right. Sleeping right. Doing things to get us right for the season. You can tell this team is really motivated.”
Oklahoma will get to play four games against four professional teams in New Zealand and Australia. These games cap off a month and a week of a training camp that most teams do not get the chance to have. With a team coming off the bad end of some late game runs and heroics a year ago, this foreign trip could not have come at a better time.
Matthew Freeman Goes Home
Not many times do international athletes actually get the chance to go home. Some college athletes living out-of-the-region of their university do not even get to go home.
For Oklahoma’s Matthew Freeman, he is getting to go home and actually play in front of his own friends and family for maybe the first and only time outside of his prep career.
“Lot of family and friends coming out. People I hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s going to be emotional. It’s going to be really meaningful. A few people, friends that I haven’t seen in a longtime that are close to the heart.” Freeman told reporters. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for (his friends) as well that I get to bring the team out. We get to play in front of them and they get to see us play on a live floor.”
The native New Zealander will get to play a game 20 minutes away from where he grew up. Only a bridge separates his home and
the city they will be playing at. Freeman says he is biased and thinks New Zealand is the greatest country, and he can not wait to show his teammates why.
“You know I just want them to kind of get the feel of New Zealand and fall in love it with as I have. The eighteen years I have lived there. That’s hard to do over three days, but I want them to experience as much as they can and come away saying that is one of my favorite places in the world. After that, I know I have done my job”
The Sooners will arrive in Auckland on Friday, August 4, and then play their game against the New Zealand Select on Saturday, August 5. They will take a day on August 6th to sightsee around Auckland, New Zealand and then head over to Australia for their final three games. At some point during those three days, Lon Kruger and the team will actually go over to eat at the Freeman’s house.
“My mom’s pretty stressed. Yeah she’s stressed about it.” Freeman said while chuckling. “There’s obviously 30 to 40 people that she has to feed. She is getting some people catering for us. I know she is cooking quite a bit too. It’s going to be interesting to see how she reacts on the night. I’m sure she will be bouncing off the walls and stuff like that”