University of Oklahoma head men's basketball coach Lon Kruger announced Wednesday the signing of three players to national letters of intent on the first day of the 2014-15 early signing period. Joining the Sooners in 2015-16 will be current high school seniors Christian James and Rashard Odomes, and junior college sophomore Akolda Manyang.
"Christian, Rashard and Akolda are all long, athletic, high-energy players," said fourth-year OU head coach Lon Kruger. "They are excited about being at Oklahoma, and we are very excited about them becoming Sooners and believe they will have terrific careers."
6-4, 205, G, Houston, Texas (Bellaire High School)
James is a 6-4, 205-pound guard from Houston, Texas, who is rated the No. 138 high school senior by Rivals.com. He averaged 20.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last year as a junior at Bellaire High School, the same program that produced NBA players Emeka Okafor and John Lucas III. Rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, James saw his recruiting take off over the summer but suffered a setback when he broke the tibia in his left leg in a game in August. He is expected to return to the court sometime this season.
OU Head Coach Lon Kruger on Christian James:
"Christian is a strong wing, very blue-collar player with high energy and a team-first attitude. Whatever he can do to win is what he's all about. He can put the ball on the floor and attack, put it in the post-up situation and shoot the jumper well. Plus, he takes pride in defense, so we are excited about all of that."
Bellaire High School Head Coach Bruce Glover on Christian James:
"Christian is a great kid. He is a better kid and student than he is a basketball player, and that's what attracted me to him. The basketball piece is just a gift. He will be fine when that ball starts bouncing for him again, and that's what we focus on is building that foundation. With his mom and his dad in his life, he has great direction.
"The Sooners are getting a kid who will live in the gym. He works really hard and he can adapt to any style of coaching. That is important for a kid to be able to do. What he does is he makes his teammates around him better. He can play multiple positions, he's a hard cover, he's a competitor and he's very smart, too."
6-6, 195, G, Copperas Cove, Texas (Copperas Cove High School)
Odomes is a 6-6, 195-pound left-handed wing player who is regarded as a three-star prospect by the major national recruiting services. As a junior at Copperas Cove High School, Odomes averaged 26.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting .561 from the field. He was named the Texas 8-5A Offensive Player of the Year last season and was a second-team all-district pick as a sophomore.
OU Head Coach Lon Kruger on Rashard Odomes:
"Rashard is a little longer of an athlete than Christian at 6-6. He's a lefty, shoots the ball with range and is very good in the open court. He has that size and is able to post up smaller guys. He is a long, lanky defender as well."
Copperas Cove High School Head Coach Billy White on Rashard Odomes:
"He's a great young man. It was fun watching him grow up into the man that he is today, and he's just one of those kids that you love to have as part of your program. He's a great leader and hard worker, both on and off the court. He's got it all in one package, basically. He's also a great basketball player. That was something that I saw when he was young is that he was a good basketball player and he's developed into being a great basketball player. He really understands the game and what it takes to be successful at the game. Of course, he can score the ball from anywhere on the court, so that's the thing that everyone sees and what stands out to everyone, but one of the things that I have always been most impressed with is his floor vision. He's a great passer and sees the court very well."
7-0, 235, C, Rochester, Minn. (Indian Hills Community College [Iowa])
Manyang is a 7-0, 235-pounder who is rated by 247Sports as the nation's No. 2 junior college prospect and the No. 1 center. The cousin of former OU center Longar Longar, Manyang averaged 8.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per game last year as a freshman at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. He shot .576 from the field and .663 from the free throw line. Through two games this season, he is averaging 15.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while shooting .667 from the floor. In the Warriors' season opener against Lee College, Manyang, originally from Sudan, finished with 25 points (on 8-for-11 shooting) and 11 boards. Indian Hills appeared at No. 6 in the National Junior College Athletic Association preseason poll. It finished 34-3 last season and reached the NJCAA championship game.
OU Head Coach Lon Kruger on Akolda Manyang:
"AK stands at 7 foot plus. He is a shot blocker, runs the floor, has good hands and shoots the ball well. We don't have anything that looks like him length-wise in the program, and we are really excited about him."
Indian Hills Community College Head Coach John Wardenburg on Akolda Manyang:
"Akolda is an extremely hard-working young man who has tremendous potential and continues to get better each and every day. He puts in countless hours on his own in addition to the practice and the other requirements that we have here at Indian Hills. He has transformed his body through hard work this summer and is an extremely talented and skilled post player. Akolda has a great personality, is extremely friendly with kids and people he comes in contact with and is well-liked by his teammates here at Indian Hills."