Blake Griffin helped Oklahoma leave behind bleak days, moving from a program facing daunting NCAA sanctions to a one that can feel confident about its future.
Now, the waiting begins to see whether the school's first AP All-American in 20 years has played his last game for the Sooners.
It would be shocking for Griffin to pass up being perhaps the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft this season and return for his junior year, but he has said all season long that he hadn't made that choice and wouldn't until the Sooners were done playing.
Even coach Jeff Capel admitted it would probably be a difficult task to convince Griffin to come back.
``That will be a decision that Blake will make for him, and it will be the same thing that happened last year,'' Capel said. ``We'll sit down. We'll talk. And I'll get whatever information.
get that information. And he'll do what's best for him and his family. And we all will support him 1,000 percent.''
Capel said he thinks Griffin is the best player in the country, and that was backed up Monday when Griffin was the only unanimous pick to The Associated Press All-America team.
Griffin's dynamic season was only a part of Oklahoma's return to national prominence. The Sooners found another new playmaker in former McDonald's All-American Willie Warren and got enough production from the rest of their guards to make it to the round of eight in the NCAA tournament for the third time in eight years before losing to top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday.
``It's never easy having a successful season like we did and getting as far as we have. It's a blessing to get this far, and you never want to stop,'' guard Cade Davis said. ``You get that feeling of winning and emotions are high the farther you go in the tournament, the more respect you gain. It's real hard.
``We had our goals set high, and this wasn't where we were supposed to go out.''
t six 3-pointers in a rout of Syracuse before Oklahoma started out 0-for-15 from 3-point range while falling hopelessly behind the Tar Heels.
``I do think we were a little bit tight. Sometimes you can want something so much that ... you're trying so hard, and I think that's what happened to us early in the game,'' Capel said.
When Griffin was healthy and getting help from the perimeter - as he did most of the season - the Sooners were nearly unbeatable. Oklahoma was off to the best start in school history at 25-1 and on the verge of taking over the No. 1 ranking before Griffin sustained a concussion in the first half of a game at Texas that his team eventually lost.
The Sooners then lost their next game against eventual Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas without Griffin and again at conference tournament champion Missouri after he had come back. A loss to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament sealed the Sooners' fall from a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and perhaps cost them their best shot at the Final Four.
Down the road, Oklahoma fans may look back at the 2008-09 season as the year of Griffin and talk about his lasting impact on the program.
e for guys in our program, and hopefully that's something that they look at. Hopefully, that's something that they see.
``There will never be another Blake Griffin, but if you want to have a chance to maximize your potential as a player, then hopefully you watched his work ethic and saw what he did.''
Whether Griffin comes back or not, the Sooners are sure to lose two seniors - Griffin's brother, Taylor, and point guard Austin Johnson - from their starting lineup.
Another wild card is Warren, who has been projected by some as an NBA lottery pick after being named the Big 12's freshman of the year.
``Hopefully, he can make some strides like Blake made from his freshman to sophomore year,'' Capel said. ``You know, if Willie decides to come back, then we're going to look at him as being a leader for us, for our basketball team next year.
``So for all of our guys, this whole experience can help. You know, if we use it the right way and keep it in the proper perspective.''
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report from Memphis, Tenn.

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