By DAVID JONES
WALT BEAZLEY, University of Tulsa
With a 20-win season behind him and a contract extension to 2013, University of Tulsa head basketball coach Doug Wojcik is looking forward to the 2007-2008 season.
“The team will be better,” he predicts. “We will be older and more experienced. The fundamentals, the infrastructure and the foundation for championship basketball, the staples of defense and rebounding, are very much established in our game. Improving our assists and shooting percentage will lead to more points per game. We need to improve on those aspects of the game.”
The Golden Hurricane returns four starters, four letterman and sophomore red-shirt Bishop Wheatley. With freshmen Glen Andrews, Justin Hurtt and Steven Idlet, whose future roles are yet to be determined, the Golden Hurricane appears stronger.
“Once again,” says Wojcik, “we are going to be strong defensively. We have been a tremendous rebounding team, averaging seven more rebounds a game than our opponents. Overall we ranked ninth in the nation defensively.
“This year we need to concentrate on taking care of the basketball and shooting a higher percentage from the floor.”
Here’s how Coach Wojcik sees the season:
“With Calvin Walls as a senior, Sam Mitchell as a junior, Jerome Jordan as a sophomore and Steven Idlet as a freshman, we have a good balance with our post players.
Those four, mixed with Wheatley playing the four position and Ray Reese potentially playing the four we have six guys in the frontcourt we can call upon.
“I like that we also have the flexibility with Bishop and Ray like we did with Darold Crow last year. We’ll still have depth in the post where Jerome and Sam are our centers. Steven can play both spots, and if we had to go small Calvin can be our five-man and Bishop our four.”
“I like guys that can pass, handle and shoot and take the ball to the glass and who can lead the break, and we have that with a number of our players. Our true point guards are Mark Hill and Brett McDade, then we have our combo guards with Rod Earls, Ben Uzoh and Glenn Andrews. We have true wing players in Ray, Justin Hurtt and potentially Bishop. We have great versatility in the backcourt.”
Some of the burden will be placed on the extremely tall shoulders of Jordan, a seven-foot-tall sophomore from Kingston, Jamaica. Last year Jordan averaged 2.7 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game.
“Jerome provides us a defensive presence at the basket and offensive presence on the low block,” says Wojcik. “He has good touch and hands and can become a natural force on the blocks.
“I think it’s incredible to see all the guys we have now. If you look at it from year one to year three, we feel that we can handle the basketball and be comfortable with the basketball in making decisions, in making shots, in making passes and in making decisions. So much of the offensive side of the ball is skill level, feel for the game and IQ, while the rebounding and defense is having a philosophy and making it important.”
A lot of eyes are going to be on sophomore Ben Uzoh, who assaulted the TU record books his freshman year. With a 9.9 point-per-game average, he ranked third in the history of TU freshmen in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. With a year of experience under his belt, hopes are high for Uzoh’s contributions in the coming season.
Other items of note:
Tulsa returns 70.4 percent of its scoring from last year.
In the two seasons Wocjik has been coach no opponent has been able to shoot as high as 50 percent from the field. This is the first time the Golden Hurricane has been able to achieve this feat since 1978-79.