Editor’s Note: This is the final part of a series of articles from the OU Caravan event that took place in Duncan on May 12.
Nothing like a long trip together to breed familiarity and create team chemistry. That’s what University of Oklahoma basketball coaches hope anyway.
The Sooners are taking their product international this summer, as the Oklahoma men’s and women’s basketball teams will play European exhibition games in June, men’s head coach Porter Moser announced Thursday during the OU Coaches Caravan stop in Duncan.
Three Oklahoma head coaches – Moser, women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk, and football coach Brent Venables – headlined the event that drew some 200 people to the Stephens County Fairgrounds.
Toby Rowland, radio voice of the Sooners, emceeded the event.
“Every four years teams can go on a foreign trip,” Moser said. “You get 10 official practices before you go on the trip. The biggest thing is the educational and bonding piece of it.”
The OU men’s team will start its European tour in Barcelona, Spain, and the OU women will open in Paris, France. The Sooners men will spend four days in Barcelona and play three games in the Spanish city.
Both teams will be in Paris at the same time, Moser said, though specific dates were not announced.
“We’re going to be in Barcelona for four days and then we’re going to cross over and hopefully see the women’s team in Paris, and maybe we can go to a game of theirs and they can go to a game of ours in Paris,” Moser said. “How cool is that? Sooners helping Sooners in Paris.”
The trip could be a meet-and-greet kind of event for both clubs. Moser returns just five players from the 19-16 team that ended the 2022 season with a second-round loss to St. Bonaventure in the NIT.
Baranczyk returns her three top players from a team that lost to Notre Dame, 108-64, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but the second-year Sooners coach has spent the offseason trying to infuse some size into the Oklahoma lineup.
OU’s women finished 25-9 in Baranczyk’s first season and garnered a four-seed in the NCAA Tournament, earning the right to host the first two tournament games.
Baranczyk talked about four incoming freshmen she believes will make an impact, including Beatrice Culliton, a 6-3 center from Overland Park, Kansas, who repeated this year as the Class 5A Player of the Year in Missouri.
Bonding and extra practices aside, the trip will provide players a glimpse of an international market they might not otherwise see, Baranczyk said.
“A lot of professional opportunities are overseas,” she said. “A lot of athletes don’t want to go there because they’ve never been. This opens up a whole new world for our athletes when we get to take them overseas on these trips. It provides a new vision for opportunity that they might not have had.”
Moser returns the Groves brothers – center Tanner Groves, a 6-10 senior, and forward Jacob Groves, a 6-9 senior – as well as forward Jalen Hill, a 6-6 senior, and guard CJ Noland, a 6-2 sophomore . That represents only a combined average of 29.2 points per game from last year’s squad.
Gone are Umoja Gibson (13.3 ppg), Jordan Goldwire (10.4 ppg) and Elijah Harkless (10 ppg).
The cupboard is less Baranczyk, who returns Madi Williams, Taylor Robertson and Ana Lianusa. Williams earned honorable mention to the Women’s Baskeball Coaches Association All-America Team last season. She was the only player in America to post 18 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals while playing less than 30 minutes per game.
Williams’ 18 points and 7.5 rebounds per game led the Sooners.
Robertson averaged 17.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, both third most on the team.
Lianusa played in just 10 games after suffering a season-ending injury Dec. 10 against BYU. The Choctaw product started all 10 games and averaged 17.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.