Austin Reaves had played in three NCAA Tournament games as a reserve in his first two seasons.
But after transferring to Oklahoma from Wichita State, the guard was looking forward to playing a much bigger role for a tournament team last year before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament.
So while most every player is eager to begin this season, Reaves is particularly ready to get it underway, especially after scoring 41 points in what became the Sooners' final game on March 7 against TCU.
Reaves and the Sooners begin their 2020-21 season Wednesday at home against Texas-San Antonio.
"We want to compete," Reaves said. "It honestly (stunk) to get the season cut short last year, but it's been a pandemic and there's not much we could do to change that."
The Sooners lost forward Kristian Doolittle to graduation and guard Jamal Bieniemy to transfer but return plenty of experience from last year's 19-12 team, plus they have added North Texas transfer Umoja Gibson.
"Probably a year where veteran experience does help, no question about it," Sooners head coach Lon Kruger said. "Given the shortened length of practice time, the protocols in and around ballgames, the additional distractions that might be available, older guys might be able to deal with better."
Reaves had one of his best games last season against UTSA, scoring 23 points and making 8 of 12 shots from inside the arc.
The teams have played in each of the past three seasons, with the Sooners winning each time.
Last season, Oklahoma beat the Roadrunners 85-67 to start the season.
UTSA coach Steve Henson was a longtime assistant under Kruger, not only at Oklahoma but also at UNLV, Illinois and with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. Henson played for Kruger at Kansas State and took the UTSA job after the Sooners' 2016 Final Four run.
The Roadrunners went just 13-19 last season but also return an experienced team, most notably with guard tandem Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace.
The pair were the highest-scoring backcourt duo in the nation a year ago, and the third-best scoring duo in college basketball, averaging a combined 45.6 points per game.
Jackson scored 24 against the Sooners last year while Wallace added 17.
UTSA's roster also got a boost in the offseason when Houston transfer Cedrick Alley Jr. was granted immediate eligibility. The 6-foot-6 forward made 16 starts for the Cougars in 2018-19 before seeing his playing time drop last season.
--Field Level Media