Oklahoma’s Ere Puts Team First
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ One year after helping lead Oklahoma to the Final Four, Ebi Ere is just happy to help the Sooners when he can.
Ere was expected to be Oklahoma’s leading scorer this season, and he was early in the year. But he lost his shooting touch during the Big 12 season and eventually lost his starting job.
Now he’s bothered by a broken bone in his left wrist, an injury that occurred just before the conference tournament. He enters Friday’s East Regional semifinal game against Butler having scored in single digits in four of the past five games.
``It’s just something that happens in basketball,″ Ere said. ``You’ve got to deal with it; you’ve got to go ahead and do other things to help your team win.″
Ere, a 6-foot-5 swingman, averaged 14.6 points last season after transferring from a junior college, where he had averaged 25 the previous year.
He scored 24 points in the season opener against Alabama, and led the Sooners in scoring in eight of the first 12 games. The last of those was the Big 12 opener against Colorado, when he had 20 points.
But a 2-for-10 performance at Oklahoma State on Jan. 13 started Ere’s slide, and he wound up shooting below 30 percent in conference games. As his slump continued, he finally went to coach Kelvin Sampson and suggested that Sampson start freshman De’Angelo Alexander in his place.
``De’Angelo, he came around,″ Ere said. ``Early in the season, he was struggling. He just worked hard to get it going, and he got it going.
``We can jump out a lot faster with him hitting open shots, and he’s a really good defender, too, and he rebounds. If I can come off the bench, I can give those guys a spark, give them a rest.″
Sampson said Ere’s decision was telling.
``How many seniors would do that,″ Sampson said. ``Ebi puts a lot of emphasis on winning. His team is a No. 1 seed and 26-6 and in the Sweet 16. If he’s frustrated, it hasn’t shown to me. Ebi, he’s a winner.″
Ere showed some flashes during the Big 12 season where it appeared he might be coming around. He had 25 points on 6-of-12 shooting in an overtime victory at Kansas State, but dipped to 5-of-13 in the next game against Baylor.
His best game in the past 13 was a 17-point effort in the Big 12 tournament semifinals against Texas Tech. In the three games since, he is just 5-for-27 and has scored a total of 18 points.
Although he is right-handed, the wrist injury affects his ability to use his left-hand dribble. That hinders his ability drive to the basket, one of his strengths.
Ere, who averaged nearly 29 points as a senior in high school, said he has never gone through the kind of slump he has this year.
``But it happens,″ he said. ``I feel things happen for a reason. It’s going to be a good reason.
``And it showed the team something, too _ we can win without me scoring and hitting shots. That’s a good thing. Now our team has more confidence in themselves when I’m not playing well.″