Claremore Daily Progress

August 24, 2013

Cream wins star-studded OU Alumni men's basketball game


NORMAN — The third annual OU men's basketball Legends Alumni Game featured a record amount of talent for the event. And it took an individual event scoring record from former Sooners guard Ebi Ere to lead the Cream team to a 102-99 win Saturday afternoon in front of an estimated crowd of 3,500 at Lloyd Noble Center.

Ere, who played on OU's 2002 Final Four and 2003 Elite Eight teams, scored 34 points with the help of 4-for-7 3-point shooting, and added four assists to earn MVP honors. He was followed on his team by Hollis Price's 15 points (13 in the second half) and Darryl "Choo" Kennedy's 13 (11 in the first half on 3-for-3 3-point shooting).

Ere still plays professionally and last week left Tulsa to report to his team in Italy. He returned to Norman on Friday night for alumni weekend festivities and flies back to Europe on Sunday.

"It is very important to me," Ere said of coming back this weekend. "This is my school. This where most things started in my life. This is where I learned about the importance of playing hard, being a good person, being a good student. I learned all that here."

As far as his performance on Saturday, a grinning Ere said he wasn't surprised.

"I expected to come out and play that well. Me, Hollis (Price) and Kelley (Newton) all had a talk last night about who was going to win MVP, and I said I was."

Eduardo Najera and Newton scored 20 points apiece to pace the Crimson team. Najera was 3-for-5 from 3-point range and Newton was 4-for-7. Chris Black added 14 points and Sam Grooms 13.

The Crimson team was bolstered in the first half by surprise participant Blake Griffin. The Los Angeles Clipper and two-time NBA All-Star played a good chunk of the first half and tallied 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. He had four dunks in the game's first five minutes and added a lay-in and long 3-pointer, as well as five rebounds.

"It's fun, man. It's a lot of fun," said Griffin, who had to leave at halftime to catch a flight. "I think Coach (Lon) Kruger's doing an amazing job when it comes to really getting the tradition back into the program and getting guys from past years to come back. So I definitely wanted to come back and be a part of it."

After addressing the crowd at halftime, Griffin threw his game shoes to the fans, which resulted in a mad scramble.

The game was tied at 49 at intermission and the decision was in doubt until the final minute. With the Cream team trailing 70-66 with just under 9:30 remaining, Price hit 3-pointers on three straight possessions during a 17-7 run for an 83-77 lead. The Crimson team cut the margin to two (91-89) but never got over the hump.

"I have so many great memories," said Najera, who played 12 years in the NBA and is entering his second season as head coach of the Texas Legends, an NBDL team in Frisco, Texas. "It's been roughly about 13 years since I played on this actual wood floor, and it felt great. The first half, I feel like I was in my zone of the great times shooting 3's, dunking it, rebounding, blocking shots. But then the second half, I think my age caught up and I couldn't hit anything.

"It's just great talking to the guys, some of the guys that I got to play with, some of the guys before us and some that came after us. It's been a great experience. Coach Kruger is doing a great job on gathering the Sooner legends, and hopefully we do it again next year."

Kruger said this year's reunion weekend, which honored the program's All-Americans and 2,000-point scorers, was once again a rousing success.

"It's so good to see everyone enjoying themselves and reliving the memories and really enjoying each other's success," he said. "The best of the best when you consider the All-Americans and 2,000-point scorers, and a lot of other Oklahoma Sooner greats here this weekend. I know our fans appreciated it and had a great time."