Oklahoma's 1988 NCAA runner-up team gathers for reunion
NORMAN, Okla. -- As he reminisced about one of his great Oklahoma basketball teams, Billy Tubbs stood near the baseline at Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday and had one wish -- another blowout win for the Sooners.
"I hope we get far enough ahead for Jason to get in," Tubbs said, in reference to Jason Skurcenski, a walk-on and fan favorite from Tubbs' 1988 team who came off the bench only in lopsided situations.
Tubbs got his wish, in a way. With a defensive effort every bit as impressive as the offensive outings Tubbs' squads used to post, the Sooners routed Texas A&M 64-37, holding the Aggies without a point for more than 16 minutes, setting an NCAA record in the process.
And in the game's final minutes, walk-on Beau Gerber exited the bench to score his first basket of the season for the Sooners.
The win capped an enjoyable day for Oklahoma fans who got a chance to again cheer for Skurcenski and other members of the 1988 team, who gathered this weekend for a reunion. Tubbs credited current Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione with coming up with the idea.
Oklahoma's 1988 team, led by Stacey King, Mookie Blaylock and Harvey Grant -- all of whom became first-round NBA draft picks -- is considered as arguably the best in school history. The Sooners finished 35-4 that season and reached the NCAA title game before falling 83-79 to Big Eight Conference rival Kansas -- a team Oklahoma had beaten twice during the regular season.
"I remember almost all the wins and I've forgot all the losses," Tubbs said. "It was just a fun year with a really good team that could score and play defense."
The 1988 team started the season ranked No. 19 but rose to No. 4 by season's end. Five players averaged double figures in scoring, led by King (22.3 points per game) and Grant (20.9). Guard Ricky Grace averaged 14.3 points and 7.4 assists per game, still a school record.
Blaylock's 150 steals that season also remain a school record, as do King's 103 blocked shots. The Sooners also set still-standing school season records for wins, scoring (102.9 points per game), rebounds, assists, field goals, 3-pointers, assists and steals.
Oklahoma had winning streaks of 14, 12 and 9 games during the season and scored 100 points or more 20 times, topped by a 152-84 win over Centenary and a 151-99 win over Dayton.
Only one other Oklahoma team reached the NCAA title game, the 1947 squad that lost to Holy Cross. Of the four retired jerseys at Oklahoma, two of them belong to members of the 1988 team -- King and Blaylock.
Grant, King, Skurcenski, Tyrone Jones, Tony Martin and Terrence Mullins were the players who returned Saturday, along with Tubbs and former assistant coaches Allen Boyd, Jim Kerwin, Mike Anderson and Mike Mims. The reunion even drew the team's popular mascot, "Top Daug," as portrayed by Kenny Evans. Evans performed in his costume on Saturday.
"It's great seeing all the old guys from what, in my opinion, is the best team in Oklahoma history," said King, who now is a television analyst for Chicago Bulls broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet and also announces Big 12 Conference games for ESPN Regional.
The team's other players that season included Blaylock, Ricky Grace, Dave Sieger, Andre Wiley, Art Pollard and Mike Bell.
"We made (basketball) a lot of fun," said Grant, who now lives in Bowie, Md., and serves as an analyst on television broadcasts for the Washington Wizards. "Everybody talks about our scoring, but I think we played good defense, also."
Grant credited Tubbs with setting the team's tone: "He said if we could beat them by 40, then, hey, let's beat them by 40."
Oklahoma's current players wore throwback jerseys and warmups similar to those worn by the 1988 team. Star freshman Blake Griffin had King's name on his warmup, while guard Austin Johnson wore Blaylock's name and center Longar Longar wore Grant's name.
"We wanted to show pride and passion," Johnson said. "We just wanted to represent them and come out and play hard."
Current Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel said the 1988 players spoke with this season's Sooners on Friday night.
"Coach Tubbs said some things to them, explaining and talking about that team and how committed they were," Capel said. "I thought that rubbed off on our team today. I thought we were committed. I thought we were tough. I thought we played with a lot of energy and passion."
Two decades later, Tubbs and Grant both said the loss to Kansas in the NCAA title game didn't diminish what the Sooners accomplished during the 1998 season. Tubbs said there's no use second-guessing what happened against the Jayhawks and their All-America player, Danny Manning.
"The only time I think about it is when I get asked about it," Tubbs said. "I thought we stuck to our game plan and played hard. We just didn't make the right plays at the right time. It was a great effort on our part ... Basically, you can't change it, so I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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