Kristian Doolittle, a 6-foot-7 forward earned Big 12 1st team honors as a member of the Oklahoma Sooner. The lone senior on the Sooners roster saw his teams season and his senior season cut short. Following the cancellation of the season, Doolittle graciously allowed me to ask him questions regarding the NCAA tournament being shut down, his future as a basketball player and his time at Oklahoma.
Cancellation of the Season
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: First off, how have these past few weeks been going for you? I know last week you said you were on the longest break from basketball you’ve ever had this year. Have you got back to playing?
Kristian Doolittle: Yeah man, it is weird times. I am just staying safe and taking the necessary precautions. I have not got to playing basketball, I hope to be able to soon though.
Interview: What is life without basketball? What are you doing with all this free time?
Kristian Doolittle: Just trying to stay busy and safe. I have been hanging out with my family a lot
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Ok. Tell me a bit about the day the tournament was cancelled. What were your initial reactions? Were you prepared?
Kristian Doolittle: It sucked man but it was expected, so seeing what happened with the NBA, I knew something would happen in college.We had the last game at the end of the day, just seeing other conferences cancelling games I knew it was cancelled. Some games cancelled in mid-game. Others before they were warming up and, you know. So it was kind of just something to expect.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: When did it set in that you had played your final college game ever? Was it then or later on?
Kristian Doolittle: No, not until later. When we got back to Oklahoma, when we got back to our gym, you know that is when it really set in that my college career was over.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: After closing the season out strong and finishing 3rd in the Big 12 you guys were pretty much a lock for the tournament. How did the team feel after hearing it was cancelled? And more specifically do you feel it is unfair that you won’t be able to get an extra year of eligibility?
Kristian Doolittle: I didn’t necessarily think it was unfair because it was something that was happening and it happened to everybody. So it wasn’t like it was just against us or against me. But you know our country’s health is more important than basketball so that’s why I’m not necessarily upset. There is reasoning behind it and people are dying because of the disease. So just trying to limit the spread as much as possible is, in my opinion, more important than playing basketball. Basketball comes and goes, but I mean, people’s lives don’t come and go. You know, if someone dies that’s not cool and cancelling the tourney helps prevent it so I am okay with it.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Obviously it is disappointing for both you and your team to have the season end so unexpectedly. With that being said, how does it feel to know your last game was such a special one? And what does that comeback show about this year’s team?
Kristian Doolittle: Yeah. That last game was, you know by far one of the greatest games I’ve ever played in. Just being able to see my teammates, throwing off like that. Seeing Austin Reaves drop 41. Everything that he shoots is, I’m expecting it to go in and I’m shocked when it doesn’t. Just the way he was able to put us on his back and lead us the entire game. I struggled there in the first half, three turnovers, two in a row. Like it was bad from the start, and they were hitting shots and playing with a lot of confidence. We were able to fight back and cut the lead down. And just being able to, say that our last game was a win is, you know, it’s better than saying, better than losing, for sure.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Did you know Austin had that in him, to go off like that?
Kristian Doolittle: Oh, most definitely. Austin is our most skilled player, offensively by far. Him being able to handle the ball and being able to shoot the crazy little shot for himself and for others. Some of the shots he takes I am like man how did that go in.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Assuming you will be going to the pro level, draft analysts think you have played yourself onto the NBA’s draft radar. Over these next few months leading up to the draft what do you think you’ll need to do to impress teams and get yourself drafted?
Kristian Doolittle: I would say just show my versatility and willingness to play. On both sides of the ball I’m able to do a whole bunch of different things. But just being able to compete and show what I can do and all the work I have put in. Most of all just do what they ask me. And I’ll go in there and do my best and if there’s a business, good. If not, there’s not. I can only really worry about what I can control; the rest is out of my hands. I know I am able to compete and go out to wherever, work really hard and just constantly improve from now until that point.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: You said you need to constantly improve from that to that point. What is the thing you want to improve on the most?
Kristian Doolittle: I’d probably say ball handling, ball handling and shooting. Just focusing on better ways to score more efficiently. I feel like defensively I’m, you know, pretty sound and that is not my main focus now. But, in terms of offensively, just being able to, to shoot better. Shoot the three better and more consistently. The line backing up again, so I am going to have to adjust to play with a farther back three point line. There’ll be growing pains. That’s how everyone starts off and eventually you start getting used to it or you start adapting to it and then you’re able to perfect it.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Ok let’s talk about your game. What in your mind is your greatest strength?
Kristian Doolittle: Creating space for a jump shot. Just from all the basketball I have played I know all the little moves and stuff. Even if it is just a little bit of space that is enough.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Greatest weakness?
Kristian Doolittle: Yeah I feel like my jump shot is my greatest strength but also a weakness. I know from some people’s perspective it looks like I’m always taking a contested jump shot. But it is something I spend a lot of time working on shooting and finding different ways to be able to get your shot off and that’s all it is on the next level. So I feel like I was able to do so even if it was a semi-contested shot, I just had a lot of confidence in being able to shoot over somebody even if it is contested. To have put in so much work and recognition to do certain shots that it feels just second nature. I know I can make that shot but there are times when I sometimes force it.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Pretend I’m an NBA GM. Make your case to me why I should take a chance on you.
Kristian Doolittle: I feel like I’m someone who works hard every day no matter what. I don’t take days off, I feel like I was born with skill but I had to adapt to some growth and grow into my full potential. I don’t think I am at my full potential now and I am going to keep working to get there. I’m pretty smart, I know the game, all the plays where I am supposed to be and where the other guys are supposed to be. And I’ll do whatever is asked of me. I’m not necessarily someone who wants all the limelight. I’ll go and do the dirty work and stuff. I mean winning that’s the most important thing to me. I’ll accept personal accolades, but it’s not something I’m gonna boast about.
Time at Oklahoma
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Multiple times during the year you guys were on the bubble. Every time this seemed to happen you guys would then go out there and get a quality win. I know you said “we were able to block out the noise” but do you think people counting you guys out helped motivate you?
Kristian Doolittle: I would say it gave us the motivation knowing that, uh, we needed to play better if we wanted to play in the postseason. So, you know, a little extra incentive to work a little bit harder, and practice and just, having to pay attention to details throughout the games. And we were playing really good defense basketball. I guess because we knew what was on the line. Each game could be the deciding factor if we make it or not. So we had a, you know, a do or die mentality those last few games. But it doesn’t, what other people think will happen with us doesn’t necessarily bother me or the guys, it just motivated us. Lon and the staff did a really good job of telling us not to pay attention to what other people have to say.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: What was that Texas game like with the ending as it was?
Kristian Doolittle: It sucked. That is all I can say
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: You also mentioned the team went through a lot this year. Being the sole senior on the team, you were the leader not just because of this but because of your experience and ups and downs you faced during your career. How did you go about leading the team and helping out the younger guys?
Kristian Doolittle: The younger guys I did not necessarily try to teach them anything. But whenever they had questions, I would tell them to ask me because I’ve been here forever, so I feel like I could give the answer to whatever question that they have. They would ask me questions from time to time and then, while we were on the basketball court. I’m not one to go yell at somebody, so I’ll pull them to the side and, you know, talk to them one-on-one. It’s not a lecture, it’s just telling them what I saw and giving my input on what they should have done. Or if they need help remembering a play or something, I mean I know all the plays from every position, so I can tell them where they need to be. So just simple things like that.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Speaking of your ups and downs. After a great freshman year, you had a difficult sophomore season. You overcame that to win the Big 12 most improved player last year and made all Big 12 1st team this year. What can you tell me about that sophomore year and how you grew from that.
Kristian Doolittle: All right, sophomore year was tough, but just having a good support system helped me get through all that. I had a semester off, and I was able to really just focus on myself. I worked out every day, while I was away and came back in great shape. Also, I got to spend some time with my family so in hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily all bad.
Yeah, I was gone from school for a semester, but I was still able to come play so I had to take the good with the bad. But I didn’t want that to define who I was. I knew I needed to come back and play extremely hard because I was given another opportunity to play at OU and I was beyond grateful. I was just very grateful that I was able to come back and play with my guys. Just wanted to do whatever I could to help the program.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: So you grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, is that correct?
Kristian Doolittle: Yeah.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: So that’s a 40-minute drive from Norman. Were you an Oklahoma fan growing up?
Kristian Doolittle: No, I wasn’t. I hated OU with a passion.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Really? Who was your team?
Kristian Doolittle: I was a huge Oklahoma State fan.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Isn’t that where your brother went?
Kristian Doolittle: Yeah. He was a wide receiver there. And I have other family members who went there too, so I’m the only one to ever go to OU. They’ve all gone to OSU. But they are not mad at me or anything.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: [laughs]. Why did you decide to go to Oklahoma?
Kristian Doolittle: They showed the most interest in me when I was in high school. They would already be at my practices freshman year watching. Jordan Wood because he was the senior and I was a freshman. And he was committed to them, so they would come by practice from time to time. So that’s how the relationship started. I would introduce myself when they were there. Just as simple as shaking their hand whenever to thank them for coming to practice. After that, I would have coaches coming to my high school games. Seeing me play at AAU and I just got more familiar with them. And then I committed when I was a sophomore. I just felt like why wait if you already have something good. So I just seized the opportunity and gave them my verbal commitment and then eventually signed my letter of intent.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: In one word, how would you describe your time at Oklahoma?
Kristian Doolittle: Good question: challenging.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Care to elaborate on that a bit more?
Kristian Doolittle: I’d say just dealing with the adversity that I’ve had to go through. At OU I had my highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But being able to push through to finish on a strong note and have my best season was great.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Ok to wrap the interview up I am just going to list off some stuff and you are going to give me quick responses.
Kristian Doolittle: All right. Sounds fun [laughs]
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: One word to describe the 2017 team
Kristian Doolittle: 2017? Uh, shit. That was my freshman. . . yeah, my freshman year. One word to describe them? Fun.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: One word to describe the 2018 team.
Kristian Doolittle: Funny
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: What about the 2019 team?
Kristian Doolittle: Energetic.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: What about this year’s team?
Kristian Doolittle: Resilient.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: I have to ask you, who has a worse haircut, Austin Reaves or Brady Manek?
Kristian Doolittle: Who has the worst haircut [laughs]? I don’t think either of the haircuts are necessarily bad. Brady’s old one maybe a bit [laughs]
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: You like them?
Kristian Doolittle: Yeah. That’s my, that’s my homies. Gotta love them no matter what.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Who’s the funniest teammate you’ve played with?
Kristian Doolittle: Uh, Miles, Miles Reynolds. Great sense of humor.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: What makes Lon Kruger laugh?
Kristian Doolittle: What makes Lon Kruger laugh [laughs]? Sarcasm.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Sarcasm [laughs]. Give me an example.
Kristian Doolittle: Oh yeah, Krug is the master of dry jokes. It is all situational. Like if he draws up a play, then you watch him draw up the play and you still do it wrong he will compliment us on our paying attention and execution.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Who is the smartest teammate you’ve played with?
Kristian Doolittle: The smartest, Austin.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Tell me a bit about the locker room vibe.
Kristian Doolittle: I feel like we all have a really good relationship. I mean no one likes to hate each other, so we are always messing around and having fun.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Favorite moment
Kristian Doolittle: When Austin hit that shot to win it against TCU.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Who is the toughest guy you’ve played against?
Kristian Doolittle: The toughest? I’d say, uh, big dude from William and Mary. He dropped 30 on me.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Damn.
Kristian Doolittle: We won though so that is all that matters. Well let me rephrase that, he didn’t drop 30 on me, but he scored 30. So I wasn’t guarding him the first half, I guarded him in the second half and he scored a few times on me. But he was like 260, like I’m 230, 232 on a good day so I think I held my own.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: [laughs] What is worse for you, getting blocked or shooting an airball?
Kristian Doolittle: Uh, getting blocked.
Sam Weitzman-Kurker: Favorite basketball movie of all time?
Kristian Doolittle: Space Jam.
Interview: Last question. Favorite basketball player of all time?
Kristian Doolittle: Gotta be LeBron James