Oklahoma's Hield looks to elevate game
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma's Buddy Hield should be a different, and better, player this season.
Last season, he mostly shot jumpers while his teammates attacked the basket. This season, the 6-foot-4 guard expects to combine the attacking style he used his freshman year with the spot-on outside shooting from his sophomore year to become an all-around player as a junior.
''I'm a better attacker, a better shooter, more efficient,'' he said Monday during Oklahoma's Media Day.
If those things are true, opponents will have trouble dealing with the preseason All-Big 12 selection. He was a second-team All-Big 12 player last season after averaging 16.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. In conference play, he bumped his scoring up to 17.5 points per game. He shot 43 percent from 3-point range in conference play and tied for the Big 12 lead with 3.5 3-pointers per game in league games.
Hield is the No. 2 returning scorer in the conference and the top returnee in 3-point goals after making 90 last season, the sixth-most in a season in school history. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said Hield enters this season even better because he was tireless during the offseason.
''Buddy has really worked to improve his game,'' Kruger said. ''He shoots the ball very well. He puts the ball on the floor, attacks. I think we will see him get to the free throw line a little bit more this year, be a little bit more aggressive.''
Hield played against professionals as a member of The Bahamas' national team during the offseason and participated in the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skills Academies. He said he came out of those experiences a different person.
''More mature,'' Hield said. ''Better leader.''
Hield also became stronger in the offseason. He's listed at 212 pounds after being listed at 208 last season.
''He's improved his body,'' Kruger said. ''He's gotten bigger and stronger, and he's going to take advantage of that on both ends of the floor.''
As a freshman, Hield averaged 7.8 points per game and won the team's Most Inspirational Award. Last season, while sharing the spotlight with Cameron Clark, Hield found ways to stand out. He scored 30 points at Iowa State on Feb. 1 and 24 at TCU on March 8. He scored 22 points and made a career-high six 3-pointers in a win over then-No. 9 Iowa State on Jan. 11.
The Sooners feel that Hield can impact the game as much on defense as on offense. He was second in the league with 1.4 steals per game last year and has the potential to be a defensive stopper.
''He'll always score for us,'' forward Ryan Spangler said. ''He'll always be our energy guy. I think the biggest thing is putting him on the ball on defense. He can guard those people, and I think if he started off every play by guarding the ball, we'll be fine.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.