OU freshman wing Christian James enjoyed a breakout performance in the Big 12 semifinals against terrific defensive pressure from West Virginia. The sturdy 6-4, 218-pound Houston native started slowly and missed a critical hoop at the rim at the end. But in the middle he got tons of playing time, merited because he was showing a deft shooting touch and utilizing his big body to compete against the ultra-competitive Mountaineers.
I’ve said all season that the pure 3-point shooting stroke will have James a primary threat for the Sooners next season, and that he’s a 20-point scorer waiting to blossom. Of more import now, look for James to get extended minutes because of his effectiveness under the brightest of lights, the scoring ability and the hit-and-miss play of junior guard Jordan Woodard.
The Sooners will desperately need Woodard’s 3-ball ability – not to mention his teammates – in the NCAA Tournament, especially against the zone defense they’ll likely see in Round 2 if the lower-seeded Sooners and Beavers win their Friday openers at Chesapeake Arena in OKC. But if James can bring it like he brought it Friday in KC, the Sooners have a chance to resemble the team that was running roughshod over the college basketball landscape earlier in the season.
A thin and disappointing bench could sure use James’ production as well because Lon Kruger can’t love his options currently when he looks down the bench when he needs a punch or a player is in foul trouble.
James is going to be a dandy. The Sooner the better for an Oklahoma team anxious to put a disappointing Big 12 Tournament in its rear view mirror.
Here’s my interview with Courtney fifteen minutes after OU’s heartbreaking loss to the Mountaineers.