Kevin Bookout stands 6'8", weighs 270 pounds and started all but
one game at power forward as a freshman last season, but his
athletic role model isn't Ben Wallace or Karl Malone. It is
Oklahoma native Jim Thorpe. While at tiny Stroud (Okla.) High,
Bookout won four state titles in the shot put and discus. And
after the Sooners were eliminated by Syracuse in the East
Regional final last March, he joined Oklahoma's outdoor track
team and put the shot at a meet five days later. While most of
his basketball teammates dream of playing in the NBA, Bookout has
his eye on the 2008 Olympics. "Jim Thorpe was good at all
sports," he says. "I want to be just like him."
Oklahoma is counting heavily on Bookout's basketball abilities
this season, especially following the loss of guards Hollis
Price, Quannas White and Ebi Ere. "The strength of the team is up
front now," says coach Kelvin Sampson. "But we don't have a guy
who you know can give you points when the going gets tough."
Bookout, who averaged 9.4 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds
last season and led the Big 12 by shooting 58.7% from the field,
is a candidate to fill that void. In the past he could camp
beneath the basket and feed off those darting guards. Now Sampson
wants the distance thrower to step out a bit and shoot. So
Bookout spent the summer practicing jump hooks and midrange
Bookout will get help in the paint from junior forward Johnnie
Gilbert (4.7 rebounds a game) and athletic 6'10" center Jabahri
Brown (5.5), one of only two seniors on the team. The other,
Jason Detrick, redshirted last season after averaging 9.2 points
on the 2001-02 team that went to the Final Four.
With Detrick and De'Angelo Alexander (7.1 points a game as a
freshman) on the wing, there's scoring potential in the
backcourt. The Sooners don't have any experience at the point,
however, and the offense will be in the hands of 5'7" freshman
Drew Lavender, a McDonald's All-American from Columbus, Ohio.
It's a young team with a promising future, but for now, Bookout's
best chance for a championship is on the track. --S.C.
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN SURE SHOT Bookout led the Big 12 with a 58.7% field goal percentage and was eighth in the nation in the shot put.
2002-03 RECORD: 27-7 (12-4, 3rd in Big 12)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Syracuse in Elite Eight
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
PF Kevin Bookout 6'8" Soph. 5.9 rpg
C Jabahri Brown 6'10" Sr. 1.3 bpg
SG Jason Detrick 6'6" Sr. 82.0 FT%*
SG De'Angelo Alexander 6'5" Soph. 35.0 3FG%
PG Drew Lavender 5'7" Fr. 10.7 apg+
RETURNING STARTER *2001-02 season +High school
an opposing coach's view
"They've got a lot of holes to fill and probably won't be that
good out of the gate, but I'm sure they'll get better.... I
expect DE'ANGELO ALEXANDER to carry the team some. He's got great
size, he can put it on the floor and he can shoot it.... KEVIN
BOOKOUT is limited, but he's a physical presence. The key is to
push him off the block because if he catches the ball there,
you're in trouble.... JABAHRI BROWN is a great athlete and shot
blocker.... DREW LAVENDER has a lot of speed, but the question
is, Is he too dang small?... JASON DETRICK was pretty good for
them two years ago, but they had so many weapons that nobody was
zeroing in on him."
The Sooners' winning percentage over the last four seasons,
second in the nation behind Duke's .858.