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January 11, 2013

Attitude makes Buddy Hield a spark for Sooners basketball

NORMAN, Okla. — Competitive instincts lack a switch. They’re always on for better or worse. Oklahoma freshman guard Buddy Hield has seen the results his can produce.

His initial introduction to OU fans came in a video the school released over the summer. Former All-American Blake Griffin was in town over the summer for a workout. Griffin, who is the most feared dunker on the planet, went to the rim. Hield challenged the shot … and failed miserably.

Amid the laughs of teammates wondering why he bothered to try what many NBA Hall of Famers won’t, something about Hield was revealed.

“Somebody has to block it sometime,” he said. “I was also thinking he was coming off an injury, so I might have a chance. I didn’t know they had a camera going.”

Nature took over. It might have led to some embarrassment that August afternoon, but it’s helping the Sooners (10-3, 1-0 Big 12).

Hield scored eight points in OU’s 67-57 conference-opening victory at West Virginia last Saturday. But deeper in that boxscore shows the spirit Hield brings to the court. There were the seven rebounds from the 6-3, 200-pound guard to go along with a team-high five assists and two steals.

The last five minutes were like a highlight reel: the layup to give the Sooners the lead for good at 4:33 to go, mixed in with two assists, two rebounds and another layup.

The last five minutes were like a highlight reel: the layup to give the Sooners the lead for good at 4:33 to go, mixed in with two assists, two rebounds and another layup.

“The last seven plays the other night, Buddy was involved with six of them,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “He got a lot of things done.”

Hield has been a difference-maker. One thing the Sooners have lacked for several seasons is the consistent jolt of energy he brings. The freshman still makes mistakes, but everything he does involves him moving at a rapid pace.

The first 10 games, that spark came off the bench. Hield’s status changed when OU returned from Christmas break. Kruger moved him into the starting lineup prior to its Dec. 29 meeting with Ohio. It now carries a three-game winning streak — with all three wins by double digits — into the 2 p.m. Saturday meeting with Oklahoma State at Lloyd Noble Center.

Having Hield on the floor at the opening tip isn’t the sole reason for OU’s improvement. As a team, OU has shot the ball better in the last three games.

But the move helped.

“He’s earned the opportunity to be a starter from Day One with his activity and his production,” Kruger said. “It wasn’t anything specific, but you just want him out there as much as he can be out there.”

Hield, a native of the Bahamas, admits breaking into the starting lineup has been a goal. However, it’s one of several that make up the biggest one. He played high school basketball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan. He had a close look at how hard it has been for OU to win games since Griffin left for the NBA.

“I want to be one of the people that helps bring a winning culture back,” Hield said. “Winning is habit. I hate losing. Everybody hates it, but losing is a feeling I try to stay far away from.”

He’s not the only Sooner player with that attitude, but the results have shown in the win column this season.

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