In the recent Weekender Edition of the Shawnee News-Star, we looked back on some local high school sports highlights throughout the year.
Now, I would like to make some personal sports reflections and thoughts as 2019 closes.
Locally, the Oklahoma Baptist University football team posted its best record since entering the NCAA Division II and Great American Conference wars. The Bison went 7-4 and for the second straight season produced a perfect 5-0 mark against Oklahoma competition. In fact, OBU has captured 11 straight games against state counterparts, dating back to the end of the 2017 season.
GAC Offensive Player of the Year Preston Haire, a redshirt junior quarterback, and redshirt sophomore receiver Joshua Cornell, were selected to the D2CCA Super Region 3 Second Team for their efforts.
Haire completed 63% of his passes for 3,041 yards and 26 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. He also ran for 542 yards and seven scores. Cornell ended the season with 74 receptions for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns.
On the Division I level, accolades poured in for University of Oklahoma sophomore center and Shawnee High School product Creed Humphrey. He was named Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year along with being selected to the All-Big 12 First Team as the awards didn't end there. Humphrey was a Rimington Trophy finalist, Walter Camp All-America Second Team, Associated Press (AP) All-America Second Team, Sporting News Second Team All-America and Football Writers Association of America Second Team.
Speaking of the Sooners and the state of college football. People like to talk about and make references to the power 5 conferences. But is it safe to say that there is only one power conference (Southeastern) and two power teams – Clemson and Ohio State?
But you can't take away from five straight OU Big 12 championships. The ugly crash by the Sooners against LSU in the semifinals Saturday makes OU winless in four College Football Playoff appearances in the short five-year history of the setup.
As for Oklahoma State. It was hard to figure out the Pokes. Perhaps the most electric running back since Barry Sanders – Chuba Hubbard – made the season exciting. But head-scratching losses to Texas and Texas Tech along with the bowl loss to Texas A&M, put a damper on things.
The Sooners and Cowboys completed the 2019 portion of their 2019-20 schedules with 9-3 records and now its time for Big 12 play.
OSU earned impressive victories over Syracuse and Ole Miss, the latter of which was a massive blowout. However, the Pokes suffered losses to solid programs in Georgetown, Wichita State and Minnesota, the latter of which was also in blowout fashion.
Coach Mike Boynton's Cowboys were only 12-20 in 2018-19, but overachieved and claimed some success with a patchwork team in which various players were previously dismissed from the squad and general students were pulled in to provide practice help.
OU collected some impressive wins over Oregon State, Minnesota and Missouri but fell to Stanford, Wichita State and Creighton in action this season.
Coach Lon Kruger's Sooners finished the 2018-19 season in March with a first-round victory over Ole Miss but fell in the second round to eventual national champion Virginia.
OU hosts Kansas State at noon on Saturday while OSU plays at Texas Tech at 11 a.m. that same day to launch Big 12 play.
Locally, coach Jason Eaker's OBU Bison enter the 2020 portion of their season with a 7-3 record and are 2-2 in the GAC. OBU is riding a three-game winning streak heading into the new year.
The Bison finished the 2018-19 campaign at 16-14 and reached the semifinals of the conference tournament.
The OBU women are 4-6 overall this season and seeking their first GAC win after an 0-4 start.
The Bison squads return to action Thursday with a trip to Arkadelphia, Arkansas to face Henderson State. The OBU teams stay in Arkadelphia to face Ouachita Baptist on Saturday.
How about the Oklahoma City Thunder?
It's still too early to get overly thrilled but I think fans can get at least get somewhat excited.
In what has become a so-called 'rebuilding year,' OKC has exceeded many expectations after the losses of superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George via trades.
Heading into the New Year's Eve night, the Thunder owned a 16-14 record, good enough to make the playoffs if the season ended now.
I have been impressed with OKC's focus and concentration on the defensive end of the floor and its ability to work the ball, both around the perimeter and inside, instead of someone holding the ball for 7-8-9 seconds and jacking up a shot in isolation fashion.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a rapidly rising star. Despite excessive trade rumors since his arrival, Chris Paul has been the ultimate professional, mentoring the rest of the team and acting like he doesn't want to be traded, in addition to producing effectively on the floor. Then you have enhanced production out of Steven Adams and then what can you say about Dennis Schroder? He is certainly a strong candidate for sixth man of the year.
Credit should be given to coach Billy Donovan. Since his arrival, I know he hasn't been a popular figure in the NBA scene in OKC. But if his team continues to excel on a consistent basis, shouldn't he be considered a candidate for NBA Coach of the Year? The guy is proving he can coach. He did so at the University of Florida and is showing it so far this season.
The Thunder may at some point fall flat on their face, but so far they have the state buzzing with excitement.