2021-22 Oklahoma Basketball Preview:

November 9, 2021

A New Era:

With the retirement of legendary coach Lon Kruger, a new era of Sooner basketball is born, thanks to the arrival of Porter Moser. 

Due to a mass exodus after the retirement of Kruger, not only is Oklahoma breaking in a new coach, but they’re also breaking in what is practically a new team altogether. 

Oklahoma had just four players on their roster when Moser took over in early April, and one of those players had just one career basket.

The Returnees:

Those four returnees are Elijah Harkless, Umoja Gibson, Jalen Hill & Rick Issanza. 

Elijah Harkless

Harkless averaged 8.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists (2nd on the team last season in assists with 53) while also coming up with 1.9 steals per game last season. 

Arguably the team’s best all-around player at the end of last season, Harkless has a chance to be the Sooners’ go-to guy this year with what should be an increased offensive role. 

A 14 point, six rebounds, three assists & two steals box score is something Sooner fans could be accustomed to, as that very well could be Harkless averages across the board this season. 

His defensive tenacity is something that will fit in well in Porter Moser’s scheme. 

Umoja Gibson

After being a key cog for North Texas (team-leading scorer in 18-19), Umoja Gibson transferred to Oklahoma & tallied 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists & rebounds in his first season with the team. 

The combo guard led the team in 3pt percentage last season, shooting 41.1% from three-point land.

Gibson should start this season at shooting guard, where his 40% shooting stroke from behind the arc will be massive for the Sooners. 

Jalen Hill

Jalen Hill came to OU after being named the 2018-19 Gatorade Nevada Boys basketball player of the year but hasn’t put it all together quite yet in a Sooner uniform. 

Starting five games last year, he averaged 4.4 points & 2.9 rebounds in 17.4 minutes played per game. 

In what should be a starting role this season with increased minutes, I’m expecting Hill to take a step up this year as an athletic, small ball four. 

Rick Issanza

After workouts with 7’1” big man, Rick Issanza coach Moser told Issanza he didn’t “see it,” saying his work ethic & conditioning wasn’t up to par. 

Issanza then told coach Moser he was going to enter the transfer portal because he wanted to play.

Moser responded differently than any coach in America would, allowing Issanza to work out still & practice with the team and be coached by Moser. 

After five weeks, Issanza told Moser, “You’ve changed me,” & Moser responded the same, as Issanza changed Moser’s opinions on him. 

Issanza took his name out of the portal, and although he has work still to do, you can’t teach his height and athleticism. 

The Transfers:

Jordan Goldwire

Starting along with Gibson in OU’s backcourt will be Duke transfer Jordan Goldwire. 

The All-ACC defensive team member averaged 2.3 steals per game last season (second in the ACC in steals & second in the nation in multi-steal games) and chipped in 5.8 points, four assists & 2.9 rebounds per contest.

Goldwire started 27 games the past two seasons & appeared in 116 games over four years at Duke. 

The point guard left Duke for Oklahoma for an expanded offensive role & OU will depend on that expanded role this season. 

Goldwire will average double figures for the Sooners this year. 

Groves Brothers

Perhaps the biggest win for the Sooners in the transfer portal was the arrival of the Groves brothers from Eastern Washington.

Tanner Groves averaged 17.2 points, eight rebounds & 1.1 blocks per contest last year at Eastern Washington & capped off his season with a 35 point, five rebounds, three assists performance (five three-pointers) against Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The 20-21 Big Sky Conference MVP will play a similar role for Porter Moser that Cameron Krutwig had at Loyola Chicago. 

Tanners’ younger brother, Jacob, is just one inch smaller than him (6’9”) and averaged 9.3 points & 4.2 rebounds while shooting 36.4% from three-point land last year. 

He tallied 23 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal & one block during Eastern Washington’s first-round matchup against Kansas in the NCAA tournament. 

Jacob will have a nice role off the bench to start the season & I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the starting lineup by the time conference play starts. 

Akol Mawien

JUCO transfer Akol Mawein is the nation’s number four overall JUCO prospect (#1 overall Power Forward). 

He flipped from Arkansas to OU thanks to the arrival of assistant David Patrick. 

Mawein is a bit raw, but he’s an athletic freak that can also stretch the floor with an underrated shooting stroke. 

His skill-set and athletic traits remind me of J.T. Thor, the one & done forward out of Auburn that was selected 37th overall in the NBA draft. 

He likely won’t get much burn this year (he will have a huge role next season) but will come off the bench and provide a spark at times. 

Veteran Additions:

Moser, who likes his teams to “stay old,” brought in two veteran transfers from Oklahoma in SMU transfer Ethan Chargios & Eastern Illinois transfer Marvin Johnson. 

Ethan Chargois

Chargois, who appeared in 108 games for the Mustangs, averaged 8.8 points, 5.4 rebounds & 2.5 assists last season. 

He will backup Groves at the center position this season but is plenty athletic enough and is a good enough passer (his most underrated skill-set) to play the four if Moser ever wanted to deploy a big lineup.

Marvin Johnson

Marvin Johnson was named first-team all Ohio Valley last year, as he averaged 15.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists & 1.9 steals per game. 

This year, he will come off the bench and have the ball in his hands often with the second group.

With Alston Mason & Bijan Cortes both being true freshmen, Johnson very well could be the teams’ backup primary ball handler. 

The Freshman:

Cortes & CJ Noland (four-star, 87th overall recruit according to 24/7 sports) have previous commitments to Oklahoma. At the same time, Mason gets the honor of being the first player to commit to Oklahoma under Moser. 

Although Cortes & Mason will have bigger roles in the future (Goldwire & Johnson both with just one more year of eligibility), they will likely see limited action in their first season.

CJ Noland could be the teams’ X-factor.

He was one of only four Sooners that scored in double digits during the exhibition against Rogers State. 

The physical guard could average double figures in his first season off the bench for the Sooners. 

His growth down the stretch as he adjusts to the next level will be pivotal for OU as far as how far they could advance in the NCAA tournament if they get there.

The Expectations:

Many people have low expectations for Oklahoma on Porter Moser’s first year as head coach. Still, in my opinion, Moser has more talent at OU than he had at Loyola Chicago.

Additionally, with increased talent in the same successful system, I view Oklahoma as not only a team that will make the March Madness tournament but also as a team that can go on a run in March and makes the sweet-16.