For the first time since 2011 the Oklahoma men’s basketball team took the floor with someone other than Lon Kruger at the helm. It was just an exhibition game but the Porter Moser era got off to a smashing success with a 106-57 crushing of Rogers State on Monday night. None of the stats from the game will matter once the real season gets underway a week from today but the principles in what we learned about this squad were noticeable. Much in the same way of Kruger’s teams, this Moser squad will be better than expected.
After guiding Loyola University to three regular-season Missouri Valley Conference titles, six NCAA Tournament wins, two Sweet 16 berths and the 2018 Final Four Porter Moser relocated from Chicago to Oklahoma to replace Lon Kruger. Oklahoma fans are hoping that the same type of success will follow him to Norman. Guided by defensive intensity Moser’s squads made regular appearances in the CBI, NIT, and NCAA Tournaments. Last season the Ramblers had a 26-5 record and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles. As an eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, they upset No. 1-seed Illinois in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time since 2018.
Roster Holdovers From The Kruger Era
Mo Gibson, Elijah Harkless, and Jalen Hill comprise the nucleus of the holdovers from the Lon Kruger era. All three were members of the starting lineup in Monday’s exhibition with Gibson placing second on the squad in scoring with 19 points. A transfer from North Texas, Gibson Appeared in all 27 games for the Sooners last season, with 15 starts, averaging 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
Harkless dropped 13 points, in 19 minutes of play on Monday night. He started in 17 games for Oklahoma last season, making 23 total game appearances, in which he averaged 8.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
A three-year player for Oklahoma, Hill has made 55 game appearances through his freshman and sophomore seasons. Last season he made 25 appearances, with five starts, averaging 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44.7 (38-85) from the field.
Sophomore Rick Issanza played sparingly last season, making just five game appearances, but there’s a lot to like about his 7-1/230 frame and Porter Moser has certainly taken notice. He logged just nine minutes of action on Monday night but scored five points and pulled down six rebounds during that time. He’s still raw but his potential is extremely high.
One of the first tasks that Moser had to take on was rebuilding a roster that had been ravaged by transfers and the NBA after Lon Kruger retired. Moser hit a homerun with the Groves brothers and then filled in around them with some of the best talent in the transfer portal. Jacob Groves led all Oklahoma scorers on Monday night with 20 points. The 6-9/210 forward had appeared in 24 game for Eastern Washington last season, making 14 starts, where he averaged 9.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
The more popular of the Groves brothers is senior Tanner who was the 2020-21 Big Sky Conference MVP while averaging 17.2 points per game with 8.0 rebounds per game at Eastern Washington. He was one of Moser’s starting five on Monday night.
The fifth member of the starting five was redshirt senior Jordan Goldwire. The grad transfer from Duke played in 24 games for the Blue Devils, with 11 starts, last season and posted averages of 5.8 points, 4.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 2.25 steals per game. He led the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (+2.82) while ranking second in the ACC in steals (2.25) and seventh in the conference in assists (4.0).
SMU transfer Ethan Chargois made 17 starts for the Mustangs last season in which he averaged 8.8, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He played 12 minutes on Monday night in which he scored six points, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out five assists.
Junior forward Akol Mawein is a transfer from Navarro College where he averaged 13 points per game over two seasons there. He’s a bit of a project, much like Issanza, with a ton of potential for his 6-8/221 frame.
Waxahachie, Texas guard C.J. Noland came to Norman with a lot of fanfare. A 4-star recruit by both 247Sports and Rivals, Noland was ranked as the 20th best shooting guard in his recruiting class. Not only did he receive the most minutes of the freshmen class on Monday night, he also received the most minutes off the bench. Noland produced 13 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes.
Alston Mason was a 3-star recruit from Overland Park, Kansas who averaged 22.4 points per game, 4.7 assists and 2.0 steals while shooting 44% from 3-point range at Blue Valley Northwest High School. He played 17 minutes on Monday night, producing six points, three assists, and a rebound.
Bijan Cortes is a name that many Oklahoma folks were already familiar with. The Kingfisher, OK product was ranked as a 4-star recruit by ESPN after leading his team to state titles in 2019 and 2021. He played 14 minutes off the bench on Monday night, producing 6 points, 3 assists, a rebound, a block, and a steal.
Moser targeted the transfer portal to replaced upperclassmen leadership vacated by Brady Manek, Austin Reeves, and De’Vion Harmon and then he hit the recruiting trail to bring in an influx of new talent to surround his transfers. Now he has to get a group of transfers, freshmen, and Kruger holdovers to gel together to make a cohesive unit that functions on the floor.
There’s no doubt that this team is talented. All the questions surround the topic of how much, and how fast, will they buy in to Moser’s philosophy? If that happens sooner rather than later then this is a group that absolutely can compete in the top half of the conference and make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.
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