Jamuni McNeace’s final season at Oklahoma has been plagued with health issues.
McNeace has dealt with a nagging ankle injury that popped up again during OU’s Big 12 tournament loss to West Virginia last week.
The center has returned to practice after he left the Sprint Center last Wednesday in a walking boot. It’s still unclear how much he’ll play in OU’s first round game, however, vs. Ole Miss on Friday.
“Much better,” OU coach Lon Kruger said of McNeace’s progress. “Don’t know what he’ll feel like tomorrow (Wednesday) but much better today. He didn’t practice yesterday, but kind of inching back into it, which is great.”
The senior was poised to be one of the team’s most reliable shot blockers and threats in the interior. And he would've provided OU with much-needed size.
Kruger wouldn’t say how much of an impact he expects McNeace will make against the Rebels this weekend, but believes he will be able to suit up.
“I think he’ll be able to play,” Kruger said. “I don’t know how much. We’ll have to see more though how he feels after coming back from a full-speed day.”
Experience on their side: OU featured a senior group this season that’s experienced all of what March Madness has to offer.
The likes of McNeace and Christian James helped OU make it to a Final Four in 2016, but the Sooners missed the NCAA Tournament the next season.
Kruger hopes the team's experience will pay off when they meet Ole Miss at 11:40 a.m. in Columbia, S.C.
“Experience is always good,” Kruger said. “You’d rather have it than not. Most of our guys have played in the tournament. Some haven’t. But most have experienced the tournament where they go to the Final Four and most experienced one-and-done. They’ve got the two extremes. Hopefully they like one feeling better than the other.”
Success against the SEC: OU blew out Vanderbilt in their first game of the season against an SEC opponent.
The Sooners are hoping to have the same luck it did against Vanderbilt with Ole Miss in the first round, as well as finally get a break from Big 12 competition.
“I definitely think so,” senior Miles Reynolds said of the feeling to see someone outside of OU's conference.
“We played Vanderbilt, we played really good against them. Hopefully our fortune against SEC teams keeps up this weekend.”