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Remember the Sonics! is introducing a new feature called Guest Space. Any reader is welcome to submit their own work for consideration, as long as it falls within the realm of sports history, analysis, projections, etc.

The Guest Space premiere article is from Brian Hodges, an Oklahoma native and avid Oklahoma State Cowboys fan.

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I know it may be heresy to write about Oklahoma City sports on a blog named Remember the Sonics, but please hear me out.

Oklahoma City has never been known as a breeding ground for top-notch athletes. While Hall of Fame athletes like Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, and Steve Largent were born and/or raised in Oklahoma City, their time of greatness has long passed. Since then, Oklahomans have been forced to find pride in gymnasts such as Bart Conner and Shannon Miller… And who really cares about gymnastics?

Despite a long run of mediocrity, the past year has been freakishly good for Oklahoma City sports. For example, in the last calendar year players from Oklahoma City hoisted the Heisman Trophy (awarded to the best player in college football) and the Naismith Trophy (awarded to the best player in college basketball).

Here are a few Oklahoma City athletes who had outstanding accomplishments last season:

Sam Bradford – Football – Oklahoma Sooners QB

QB Sam Bradford

QB Sam Bradford

In only his sophomore year, quarterback Sam Bradford led the Oklahoma Sooners to a BCS National Championship. Throwing for over 4,700 yards and 50 touchdowns earned him the Davey O’Brien Award (awarded to the best quarterback in college football) and the most prestigious award in college football, the Heisman Trophy.

At the conclusion of this year’s college football season, Bradford was considered one of the top prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft. Instead of turning pro, however, he decided to return to Oklahoma for his junior year.

Sam Bradford’s 2008 College Football Resume

  • Led Oklahoma to a 12-1 Regular Season Record
  • Won the Big 12 Conference Championship
  • Earned a BCS National Championship Bid
  • Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year
  • AP First Team All-American
  • AP College Football Player of the Year
  • Sporting News Player of the Year
  • Sammy Baugh Trophy Winner
  • Davey O’Brien Award Winner
  • Heisman Trophy Winner

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Blake Griffin – Basketball – Oklahoma Sooners PF/C

griffin

PF/C Blake Griffin

In his sophomore year, Blake Griffin led Oklahoma to the Elite Eight. Griffin owned college basketball this season, averaging 22.7 Points Per Game and an NCAA-Best 14.4 Rebounds Per Game while recording 30 double-doubles. He won every legitimate “Player of the Year” trophy in 2009 and is universally projected as the No.1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Blake Griffin’s 2008-09 College Basketball Resume

  • Led Oklahoma to a 27-4 Regular Season Record and an Elite Eight Appearance
  • Big 12 Player of the Year
  • Adolph Rupp Award Winner
  • Oscar Robertson Trophy Winner
  • AP First Team All-American
  • Sports Illustrated Player of the Year
  • Sporting News Player of the Year
  • AP College Basketball Player of the Year
  • John Wooden Award Winner
  • Too Many Other POTY Awards to List

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Xavier Henry – Basketball – Putnam City High School SG

xavier

SG Xavier Henry

Oklahoma City’s athletic success carried over to the high school ranks as well.

Xavier Henry, from my alma mater Putnam City High School, was the No.1 ranked college basketball prospect by ESPNU for most last season. He is still considered a top 10 prospect by every major recruiting website.

The 6’6” shooting guard committed to Memphis but is now considering other options since head coach John Calipari accepted the head coaching position at Kentucky. According to various sources, he has narrowed his list to Kansas, Memphis and the now-Calipari-led Kentucky Wildcats.

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Oklahoma City Thunder – NBA Franchise – Established in 2008

Most sports fans know how the Oklahoma City Thunder came to be, but most (former) Seattle Sonics fans are unaware of the Thunder’s impact on it’s new city. 2008 will always be remembered as the year that Oklahoma City finally received a major professional sports team.

While the Thunder struggled through its first season in Oklahoma City, it has a strong young corps of players led by superstar Kevin Durant. The Thunder will have a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and have an outside chance at winning the No.1 Pick and adding local icon Blake Griffin to their roster.

Despite this season’s failure, the OKC Thunder are quickly becoming a stylish pick among NBA writers for the “team of the future.” The only question is when the Thunder can put it all together and produce a winning season.

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While the three athletes mentioned above are still very young, their potential is limitless. It is yet to be seen whether they will follow former Oklahoma City football star Brian Bosworth by turning into one of the biggest flops in the sports history or follow one of the Hall of Fame athletes mentioned before and become a legend.

Regardless of where they go from here, their futures are bright.

Oklahoma City sports fans should live it up while they can, because I don’t see Okies winning both the Heisman and the Naismith awards again any time soon.

-BH-

Brian Hodges can be reached at bhodges@harding.edu

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This just in: the Oklahoma Sooners have put out a hit on Morgan State freshman Ameer Ali.

Let me preface this by saying that when the following event took place, Oklahoma was up around 20-30 points, meaning that the game was signed, sealed, and delivered to Oklahoma’s doorstep.

In the second half of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game between Oklahoma and Morgan State, Ali and Griffin were fighting for a rebound when the matter got out of hand.

Ali and Griffin went up for a rebound, came down with their arms interlocked, and then both tried to pull themselves free of eachother. Ali apparently felt like he was being harassed by Griffin, because he grabbed Griffin’s arm and dragged the National Player of the Year (by the shoulder) over his body. Griffin did a complete flip before landing on the ground (nearly landing on the back of his neck) and Ameer Ali was ejected immediately.

When I first saw this incident here is what I thought:

  1. Horace Grant's Illegitimate Son Plays for Morgan State

    Horace Grant's Illegitimate Son Plays for Morgan State

    What was Blake Griffin still doing in the game?

  2. Who let Horace Grant play for Morgan State?
  3. Thank god he did not land on his neck.
  4. Oh ****! My bracket!
  5. How can Ameer Ali be stupid enough to literally body slam an opponent directly in front of a referee?
  6. Is Ali crazy? If he hurts Blake Griffin in any way Sooner fans nation-wide will hunt him down and kill him. Why? Because everyone knows that if Blake Griffin goes down, so do the Sooners title hopes.

It’s a shame when a team is getting blown out and doesn’t know how to handle it. No one likes to lose, but with this act Ameer Ali brought losing to a new low. Greg Gumbel called it “easily the bush league play of the tournament so far,” and had Griffin been hurt Ali would have faced some serious repercussions.

It is said that in order to be a great player one must know how to win, but also how to lose. Ameer Ali missed the memo on this life lesson.

Any athlete knows there are times when you just want to beat the hell out of your opponent. Unfortunately, you can’t do it with your fists. If you want to prove a point, do it on the court. If you can’t do it on the court (as Ali couldn’t) then just buck it up, go home, and wait for your next chance.

sk.

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The Cleveland State Vikings upset No.16 Butler tonight to earn an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, those Cleveland State Vikings.

Sure, Cleveland State finished the season with with 25 wins, including an upset of (then) No.13 Syracuse, but their tournament chances were done if it weren’t for Tuesday’s Horizon League Championship Game victory.

Everyone Is Looking for This Year's George Mason

Everyone Is Looking for This Year's George Mason

The fans loved Cleveland State’s title game victory. A mid-major team with minimal Tournament hopes earned an NCAA Tournament bid, a Conference Championship upset made the ESPN highlight reel, and another potential Cinderella team joined the NCAA Tournament pool. However, Cleveland State’s victory had one commonly overlooked consequence: another team’s NCAA Tournament bubble has popped.

Rivals’ most recent 65-Team Prediction has the following four teams as the last four out: San Diego State, St. Mary’s, Florida, and Creighton. All four teams have a better resume and more potential for tournament success than Cleveland State, but any of the four could end up watching the NCAA Tournament on television. Even worse, they could end up in the NIT…

The bottom line is that automatic bids rob the NCAA Tournament of hosting the most talented teams and the fiercest competition.

Here are the two main arguments in support of automatic NCAA bids and why each one is flawed.

1) If conference tournament champions weren’t given automatic NCAA Tournament bids, small-conference teams would have nothing to play for -This might be true, but it comes with playing in a less prestigious conference.  Gonzaga (WCC), Butler (Horizon), Xavier (Atlantic 10), and BYU (MWC) are all small-conference teams who cracked last week’s top 25. If no automatic bids were given, these four teams would undoubtedly go dancing. Even if automatic tourney bids were taken away there are ways for small-conference teams to garner national attention (and consequently earn respect from the NCAA Selection Committee). In order to earn national attention, small-conference teams have to play power-conference teams in their non-conference schedule, beat at least some of these power-conference teams, and win all the games they’re supposed to. Taking away automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament would make it difficult for small-conference teams to make the tournament, but not impossible.

Davidson Played Cinderella Despite Being Well-Known

Davidson Played Cinderella Despite Being Well-Known

2) If conference tournament champions weren’t given automatic NCAA Tournament bids, the Tournament might not have any more “Cinderella” teams – Not true. In 1998, the Gonzaga Bulldogs lost the WCC conference championship game, and subsequently settled for an NIT Tournament appearance. In 1999, Gonzaga scheduled a number of high-profile teams (e.g. No.8 Kansas, No.15 Purdue, No.22 Washington), beat at least one of those teams (No.22 Washington), and built upon their previous season to earn national attention. They received a No.10 Seed in the NCAA Tournament, which showed that they were not considered a typical small-conference champion, and had they not won the WCC conference tournament it was assumed that an at-large bid was on its way. A team doesn’t have to be a nobody to be a “Cinderella,” all you have to be is an underdog. Davidson went to the NCAA Tournament in 2006 and 2007, but in 2008 (their third straight appearance) they turned into a “Cinderella” team. The bottom line is that if a potential “Cinderella” team gains national attention through consistent success, they will earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament through their own merit (not through a hot streak of games which robs another deserving team of an NCAA Tourney appearance). From there, it’s up to small-conference teams to play their way to glory.

The bottom line is that automatic bids to NCAA Tournament give undeserving teams a chance at a National Championship while robbing teams who could otherwise compete. Chattanooga (Southern Conference) and Cleveland State (Horizon League) are two teams who have stolen NCAA bids away from more deserving teams so far this year.

Automatic bids provide underdog stories that fans enjoy, but make a tournament comprised of the most talented teams in the country an impossibility; and that is something that the NCAA needs to fix.

sk.

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