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October 17, 2007

Jeff Capel


PETER IRWIN: Good morning to everybody. We'd like to welcome you this morning to the Big 12 media days for men's basketball. And Coach Capel is here from Oklahoma University. Coach, welcome.
JEFF CAPEL: First of all, I'd like to thank all of you for getting here bright and early this morning. We hope to have an exciting media day. We know this is going to be a big year in the Big 12. There's talented players and good coaches. We're excited about being up in Kansas City, seeing the Sprint Center and the College Basketball Experience. It's a great place to play basketball here in Kansas City.
We're excited to be here. I'm excited about my team this year. I think we have some returning guys that are talented and got better this summer. We have some talented new guys. We're in the process right now of mixing it all together and trying to figure out who we can become.

Q. Reflect back for us on your first tour, your first season. What you learned, what you know you have to get better to compete at the championship level at this conference?
JEFF CAPEL: We have to be able to score. We have to be able to put the ball in the basket. That's where we really struggled last year. We go through lulls, just about every game, especially our last six or seven games, where we couldn't score. I thought defensively we were pretty good. We were able to stop people. In order to win games you have to put the ball in the basket and that's what we struggle at.
Hopefully this year with some guys last year getting some consistent minutes, Longar Longar playing consistently for the minutes, Tony Crocker, hopefully we can be healthy all year long. With those guys, and David Godbold being a senior, some of our new guys, hopefully we can get consistent scoring, and being as good or better as we were defensively.

Q. You had an extra ten days of practice, got to take your team up for some games in Canada. What was the impact of that, especially with a young player that you have like Blake Griffin?
JEFF CAPEL: It was a great experience for us. The practices, games, the camaraderie. We were over in Vancouver, our cell phones didn't work, so they had to talk to each other. So we had that. Played four games over there and the competition was decent, but I thought we did some awfully good things. We went on that trip without Austin Johnson and Tony Crocker, those guys were out with injuries. We only had one returning back court player, David Godbold, so they were able to get some experience, especially in the back court. Blake was terrific, he's a really talented young guy. And he's one of those guys that wants to be really good, he doesn't just talk about it, but he's arguably been the hardest worker since the first day he stepped on campus. In a lot of ways he's really elevated our practices, our workouts, because of how hard he goes after it. He's going to be a good one for us. But we think some of our other new guys will have a chance to have significant impact for us, as well.

Q. Obviously you've got some established post players with Longar and Blake coming in. Talk a little bit about your guard players?
JEFF CAPEL: It should be key for us. We have to get good guard play. I like our post guys, the two guys you mentioned and Taylor. Taylor Griffin will be better, be more consistent than he was last year, and get Keith Clark back. But we have to show improvement in the back court. We have to really defend, the defense starts in the back court, picking guys up. We have to be able to create some offense from our back court. So we're open with a healthy Austin Johnson, and senior David Godbold and Tony Crocker, those guys will be the mainstays on the perimeter. And our new guys will have a chance to work their way in and have playing time. And Cade Davis played good in Canada, and has done some good things recently. We've had four practices since last Friday, Omar Leary has done a good job. We have talented guys, but they're young.

Q. You mentioned Omar Leary, talk about what you've seen from him.
JEFF CAPEL: He's done some good things. He struggled with it some, which is typical of a lot of junior college guys, especially junior college guards. Omar has to learn how to work hard every day -- to work at a different level. He works hard, but when you come from a junior college and get to this level it's a different way you work. There is a little more structure than what he's accustomed to, playing against bigger guys, playing with bigger guys. He's not able to get all the way to the basket. He's a small point guard, he's not able to get all the way and finish like he did in junior college. He has to pick spots and he can't get buried too deep. He can handle the ball. He shoots it well and we think he's going to be a good player for us. It's like most new guys, unless you have a special talent, it's going to take him a little bit of time to figure things all out.

Q. What do you see as your main challenge? Obviously Big 12 is a brutal conference. What do you see as the main challenge?
JEFF CAPEL: Well, I think, like I said earlier, the main thing is guard play. We have to have consistent guard play on both ends of the floor. We have to be able to score more. Last year I think our stats, I don't remember, but I think we were up on top somewhere near the top defensively. And I anticipate us being a good defensive team again. Hopefully we're better than we were last year. But we have to be able to score and we have to get good, consistent perimeter play. And I think if we can do that and our post guys can be as good as we think they're going to be, and be consistent, I think we have a chance to really improve from where we were last year.
I thought last year we had a chance, we were right there and just down the stretch we just couldn't close games out, we couldn't put two halves together, we had lulls where we couldn't score, but we still had a chance, we were right there. Hopefully last season helped our guys, especially our returning guys, grow up. Longar was inconsistent at times last year. At times he was terrific. At times he wasn't so terrific. He had never really played. He was sort of like the junior college guy, finally playing as a junior. And then there was some confidence issues with him. I think with playing consistently last year I think he knows how to prepare for a season better. So I think he's better prepared this year to play the minutes than he was last year. If you haven't played on this level, I mean really played minutes, you really don't understand how you have to prepare. I don't think it's any coincidence that down the stretch is when some of our guys started to struggle. I think we got tired. I think we got mentally fatigued also. That's where when you haven't played, whether you're a freshman or junior college guy, you don't know how to prepare for late February, mid-to late February when we're playing those games, you don't know how to mentally prepare for that. Hopefully all our guys will be better because of the experience last season. And they can help the younger guys out. We had no one that had done that except for Michael Neal last year. Nate Carter and David Godbold played consistently, but we need those guys to step up and be leaders for us.
PETER IRWIN: Have a great season.

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