NORMAN (AP) — Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, the Big 12 player of the year, has chosen to return for his senior season.
Hield made the announcement Friday with his coach, Lon Kruger, next to him.
“You have to be smart,” Hield said. “You can’t go in there and a take a gamble and bury yourself. I just know the best decision was to come back and improve. That way when the time comes, I’ll be ready.”
The 6-foot-4 Hield averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season while shooting 41 percent from the field. Hield said he wanted to go pro, but after talking to family, friends and coaches, he decided that returning would be the best choice. He said he looks forward to getting his degree in human relations.
With Hield’s return, Oklahoma will return four starters from a team that finished with a 24-11 record and reached the Sweet 16.
“I feel like the best is yet to come with this team,” he said. “My main goal is to go to the Final Four. Why not go there? It’s my last year. Be the best player and I can be and help this program go forward.”
He said the process in determining whether he was ready to make the jump was humbling. He was told he needs to improve his ball handling and his ability to create off the dribble.
“It’s kind of embarrassing for me, because I’m always in the gym, but I never really work on my ball handling,” Hield said. “I always work on my shooting. I need to accept the challenge and work on things I need to get better at. I’m ready to make that next jump in my game.”
Hield, whose hometown is Freeport in the Bahamas, said he expects to be a shooting guard in the NBA.
“I’m a scorer at heart,” he said. “I love to score the ball. Being a two guard, most two guards know how to handle the ball really well to get them their shots. I like the challenge. I want to get better. I feel like the best is yet to come for me. I just can’t wait to see the progress I can make this summer.”
Kruger, a former NBA coach who helped with Hield’s evaluation process, is thrilled to have his star back.
“It’s fantastic for the program,” he said. “I’m most happy for Buddy. He’s meant so much to the program. He had a plan from the start. As soon as the season was over, he had a plan of what he was going to consider throughout this process. The maturity with which he’s approached this is really admirable. He’s grown every year and has so many things in the right order.”