In The Paint's All-American Hoops Blog

Willie Warren
Willie Warren and the Sooners take on Big 12 rival Texas on Monday night/Icon SMI

The latest subject in our Hoops Q&A series is Oklahoma's Willie Warren, a 6-foot-4 guard who's a candidate for Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Warren, a former McDonald's All-American from Fort Worth, Texas, is averaging 15.8 points per game and leads the 15-1 Sooners in three-pointers made with 30. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Luke Winn: Your bio says you want to want to pursue a career in sports broadcasting when you're done with hoops. Why is that?

Willie Warren: My mom always wanted me to be around the game of basketball, and I love to watch Charles Barkley on TNT. He's a funny guy, and I feel like I could compare myself to him, and be a studio analyst. It seems like kind of an easy job, because I know the game as a young guy, and I'll be able to talk about it well when I'm older.

LW: If you were asked to give a studio analyst's breakdown of your teammate [and Wooden/Naismith Award candidate] Blake Griffin, what would you say?

WW: I'd be like, 'He's a monster, and he's going to be the No. 1 pick. Next question.' I mean, what can't Blake do? He'd made threes this year. Made every type of shot from inside the arc. His free-throw shooting has improved a lot. He dunks in every way you can possibly imagine. He grabs numerous rebounds. So that, basically, is what I'd say.

LW: You've said that the opportunity to play with Blake played a big role in you choosing Oklahoma. What do you think your presence in the lineup has done to help him?

WW: He probably would be getting double-teamed a lot more without me. Maybe if I wasn't there, then Juan [Pattillo, a junior juco transfer] wouldn't have redshirted, and he'd be making threes, but with me in the lineup, and being able to score like I can, it can help Blake out. You can't double-team him as much, because you have to cover me, and Crock [Tony Crocker] and A.J. [Austin Johnson] can hit threes too, so you have to worry about the whole team.

LW: Are you amazed at some of the stuff opposing defenses have been doing to Blake? You had USC's Leonard Washington punching him below the belt, and Utah's Luka Drca tripping Blake on a fast break. It's going beyond normal defense and getting dirty ...

WW: Well, if you watched Blake last year, you saw him losing his head sometimes, and getting frustrated and having bad body language, so I know why teams are trying to get in his head. People try all kinds of things to bother him. You do whatever you have to do -- what USC did, what Utah did, and in the Rice game in Houston, he got hit with an elbow in the face and had to get stitches. But this year Blake always keeps his cool.

LW: Do you guys feel like you have to speak up and send a message to the opponents who try that stuff?

WW: I've done it, but Blake doesn't. The only thing he says is, 'You're in trouble now; I'm going to kill you all on the floor.' I got my first tech this year actually defending him when he got tripped against Utah. Hopefully by next year I'll be mature enough so I can act just like Blake does now.

LW: What did you say to the Utah guy [Luka Drca]?

WW: I said, 'That's my double-double machine, and you better not hurt him, or I'm going to hurt you.'

LW: You came to OU with a reputation for talking, mostly because of that incident with Kobe Bryant at his camp, when you ribbed him for not being there, and then said you'd spot him four points in a one-on-one game to five ...

That thing with me and Kobe was a joking matter. The journalists kind of made it bigger than it was. We knew what was going on -- and when the cameras were down, we actually talked about basketball.

LW: You also had the thing with LeBron James, where you deliberately avoided taking a picture with him at his camp. What was the logic behind that decision?

I've never been a player who takes pictures with anybody. Even LeBron, who's one of my favorite players in the NBA, behind only Allen Iverson, who's my all-time favorite next to Dr. J. I love LeBron, love watching him play, and I feel like he's the most talented player in the NBA next to Kobe. But the picture thing, that's also how my mother is -- she was an All-American in high school and college, and if you put Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes in front of her, I bet you she wouldn't ask them to take a picture with her, either.

LW: But what's the reason for it? I read somewhere that it was because you might have to play against them in the future.

It's not that ... it's just ... I honestly don't know what it is. It's more an ego thing than anything. I get that from my mom. We're both very stubborn. I'm so stubborn about it that I've never taken pictures with anybody. I've met Jordan, and I didn't take a picture with him, I met Iverson, and I didn't take a picture with him. When I was growing up I didn't ask anyone for autographs or pictures or anything.

LW: Going back to the topic of trash-taking, do you still talk a lot on the floor?

I used to love talking, but I haven't talked much on the court in the last two years. Or at least I haven't talked much in the games. I'm talking trash in practice, but in the games I never really do, especially since this is my freshman year, and I don't feel like it's as easy. In high school I felt like I could talk and then just turn it on, but it's a totally different level now. I try to keep my mouth closed. But I might sometimes let a defender know that he might want to contest me a little more, because I'm about to get hot.

LW: Was there one game in particular this year where you were saying stuff like that?

WW: The Purdue game [an 87-82 overtime win on Nov. 28 in New York]. Because I felt like that was a big one for us -- Purdue was getting a lot of notice nationally, and we should have been getting a lot. We knew we could win that game. [Robbie] Hummel was guarding me, and he was the Big Ten Player of the Year last year, so people doubted that I'd be a factor in the game. So when I got a little hot down the stretch, I talked some noise.

LW: You talked about your mom, Malaika Frazier, and her basketball career. Have you ever seen any tape of her playing?

WW: I've never seen any tape, but she was a power forward or a center, and growing up we played a lot of one-on-one. She had graduated by then, but she was still playing in a league around the way [in Fort Worth, Texas], and she just used to pound on me. I hated it. She would post me up the whole time and I wasn't big enough to stop her. But when I got bigger ... then she couldn't stop me.

LW: I read that she was still playing hoops when she was seven months pregnant with you. She said that made it inevitable you would be a basketball player.

WW: I'll sometimes joke with her, because I won a high school state championship and she didn't -- she got there but never won -- that I've got a ring and she doesn't. She'll say, 'Where do you think you got that talent from?'

LW: She also had a strong hand in your recruiting process. There's a story about her taking away your cell phone when you jumped the gun and committed to Baylor. Did that happen?

That happened. Right after I committed to Baylor on the phone -- in the summer after my junior year -- I knew it was wrong because I didn't talk to my mom about it first.  I got caught up in the heat of the moment and I liked what they were talking about. I would have ended up taking care of it myself and decommitting and going to OU anyway, but when my mom found out, she was like, you're going to call them back and decommit right now. Then she took my phone away and I couldn't talk to any coaches, or do any interviews with reporters unless she was right there.

LW: You had mentioned that when you talked to [OU] coach [Jeff] Capel on the phone as a recruit, you liked the fact that he didn't talk only about basketball. What would you guys talk about?

WW: Coach Capel was a huge Jay-Z fan. And I'm a huge Lil' Wayne fan. So we'd send verses back and forth from each guy, to see who had the hottest lyrics. And we would talk about school and family, girlfriends, anything like that.

LW: Has your relationship with Capel changed at all now that you're a freshman rather than a recruit?

The relationship hasn't changed. The situation is different when you're being recruited, especially when you're his main recruit and he's hitting you up every day. Now it's like you're in the family. Now you have 12 brothers with you and he has to look after them all. You realize that he isn't acting different; this is your new family and he can't just look after you only, and baby you. If it came down to some personal issue though, I know I could come to him with it.

LW: You wore the number 32 when you were in high school because it was your mom's number. Taylor Griffin already had it when you were coming to OU. You mentioned in a story that you'd have to play him for it or buy it from him. He's still wearing 32, though, and you're wearing 13. What happened?

WW: I felt like one of the reasons Blake came back was to watch his brother graduate. So I figured if Taylor could get Blake to come back, he could have 32 for as long as he wanted. But I'm definitely going to wear 32 next year, after Taylor has graduated.

LW: So you're staying at Oklahoma for another year for sure?

Yeah, I'm staying.

LW: Before your first 20-point game this year, against Davidson on Nov. 18, [assistant] coach [Oronde] Taliaferro had a heart-to-heat talk with you. What did he say?

It was a confidence thing. I felt like I've always been a player who just makes shots. And then I went 0-for-10 from three in our first two games. I might have had 14 points in one of them, but I didn't feel like I was playing up to my potential. [Taliaferro] said I needed to relax and stop worrying. So when I came into the Davidson game, I remember my first basket: I caught it in transition and I just pulled up and hit it. I came back and hit another one, and knew I was back to my old self again. Unfortunately, though, I fouled out and missed about 17 minutes of the second half. If that didn't happen, maybe I could have matched Stephen Curry [who had 44 in that game].

LW: Since you've already faced Curry, who are three other guards you'd like to go head-to-head with this season?

I'm excited to go against Sherron Collins from Kansas [on Feb. 23], since he was on a national championship team last year. He'd have to be on my list.

Then Jonny Flynn from Syracuse. I'd love to go against him. He's a playmaker and I feel like he's one of the top three guards in the country, regardless of size. And A.J. Price from UConn -- or last year's A.J. Price, since he's still coming off of a knee injury. Both he and Jerome Dyson are good guards.

LW: Which teams do you consider national title contenders? Is UConn in that group?

WW: Them and North Carolina. And us, if we play our A-game. I haven't seen Pitt enough yet to know if they're legit, and I just saw Duke play Davidson, and they handled Davidson pretty well, but for some reason I don't think Duke is as good as people make them out to be.

LW: You said you're a contender if you bring your A-game. What does that mean?

WW: It means we have to dominate, like North Carolina was doing early in the season. They didn't even have a close game until they lost to Boston College. UConn has had a few close games, and lost once, so I don't see what separates us from UConn. We should be in the same boat as any team with a loss. I don't think we're in the top 10 for no reason, and we have the talent to be in the top three, as long as we play our game.


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