For the second season in a row, Oklahoma basketball is hoping the light bulb is going to come on down the stretch and make a late-season run.
Last year it was the emergence of Marvin Johnson, who had to fight through the adjustment period in playing under Porter Moser to become a vital spark in the final games.
If it feels like déjà vu again, it’s because it is. This time in two-time transfer guard Joe Bamisile, who went from a missing person to begin conference season to being a big piece here down the stretch.
Bamisile, expected to be a solid contributor from the transfer portal, didn’t play a single minute in the first half throughout January. He finally saw meaningful minutes in a blowout loss at West Virginia, but he’s been a fixture on the court since.
“Probably just trying not to get too much in my own head,” Bamisile said. “You got to remain a confident player no matter the circumstance. So I think getting to a place where circumstance doesn’t dictate my confidence in myself is big.”
Bamisile still hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a conference game, but his athletic ability has been too good to deny.
In stretches and spurts, he’s bringing the energy. And every now and then, he’s bringing the production like he did with 13 points and four rebounds in the gut-wrenching 85-83 overtime loss at Texas on Saturday afternoon.
In the last five games, Bamisile has averaged seven points per contest and more than three rebounds per game.
A 16-point scorer at George Washington, Bamisile admits it was focusing on defense that took a while. He gets it now.
“I think when I first got here, I relied heavily on my offensive skill set,” Bamisile said. “Now being able to adjust and have that same attention to defensively playing hard, it’s made playing a lot easier.”
There are the ebbs and flows of game-time minutes when you’re coming off the bench. Bamisile had a lot of reasons to pack it in and count down the days until he could hit the transfer portal.
Instead, he’s attempting to turn his season around, and maybe OU’s at the same time.
“He’s continuing to shrink the gaps with his mistakes. He’s playing a lot harder in practice,” Moser said. “His attitude has been really good. A lot of players have a choice when not getting the minutes. Your choice is to pout, blame, be mad at the world and all those things.
“Or try to get better, to fight, try to be persistent and address the things for why you’re not playing. Joe has chosen that path. He’s gotten better for it.”
The Sooners (13-14 overall, 3-11 Big 12) host Texas Tech (15-12, 4-10) 8 p.m. Tuesday. A win would help OU get out of last place in the conference as the Sooners would have swept the Red Raiders.
Harmon’s return to OU
In a sign of the times, Texas Tech guard De’Vion Harmon will be returning to OU for the first time since being with the Sooners his first two years.
And the only OU player who actually played with Harmon is senior Jalen Hill. Again, the age of the transfer portal.
Moser took over right as Harmon was contemplating his decision. Harmon went to Oregon last year before transferring to Tech for this season.
Don’t call it a revenge game, though, for either side.
“High-energy, good kid. He chose to go a different path. I didn’t fault him for it,” Moser said. “I didn’t really have too much of an opportunity. I just talked to him a couple of times, and my interactions were good with him. I thought he was a nice, young guy and a high-energy, young guy. Everyone had their choices. I totally understood. There’s zero hard feelings at all.
“That downhill speed has been something that he’s done a really good job with. He’s averaging, I think, 15 in conference play. To be able to do that, you’ve got to be able to do that in a lot of different ways, and he’s doing it in a lot of different ways.”