Capel sees brighter days ahead for OU

TULSA, Okla. -- Jeff Capel still isn't talking about an ongoing NCAA investigation into his basketball program at Oklahoma.

What the coach will say is that he can see brighter days ahead for the Sooners.

Capel's program was nearing the end of an NCAA-imposed probation for violations that occurred under predecessor Kelvin Sampson when the new allegations popped up at the end of the Sooners' first losing season in nearly three decades.

Since then, five underclassmen and two assistant coaches have left, and Capel has signed nine recruits to replenish his roster. Just recently, he began interviewing candidates for the two openings on his staff.

"It's been challenging. Obviously a lot of things going on," Capel said Tuesday before a fan event. "But I'm really excited about how our guys have worked -- our returning guys -- and I'm excited about the new guys we have coming in. I mentioned ... just cleansing our program. I feel like we've done that. I really like the direction in which we're going."

Capel said he couldn't comment on the ongoing investigation or how long it will take.

Last week, the university revealed that it was sharing with NCAA investigators the phone records of former assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro, who resigned in April. The phone logs, released by the school after an open records request, show Taliaferro exchanged more than 75 calls and text messages with numbers associated with Jeffrey Hausinger of Tampa, Fla., and his former employer, Merrill Lynch.

Hausinger was accused of wiring $3,000 to former Oklahoma forward Keith "Tiny" Gallon in a TMZ.com report that sparked the investigation. Gallon and fellow underclassmen Willie Warren and Tommy Mason-Griffin decided to enter the NBA draft following the Sooners' 13-18 season.

Hausinger, who has denied the allegation in a filing with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, did not return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

With the investigation continuing, Capel has made recruiting a priority. With the departure of Taliaferro and assistant Mark Cline, Capel mobilized director of basketball operations Bryan Goodman to get an extra person on the recruiting trail.

The Sooners brought in seven new players in a span of less than five weeks, adding to what had been a two-man recruiting class. Capel said he still has one scholarship remaining.

"We wouldn't just take guys just to take bodies," Capel said. "We signed guys we thought that could and will contribute to our basketball team. We feel very fortunate that we were able to get those guys."

Capel said the upcoming months will be critical to his team's success, especially after a "very bad summer" a year ago. At that time, the Sooners were coming off an appearance in the NCAA tournament's regional finals and the selection of Blake Griffin as the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick.

"I'm excited to see what this team can become. I don't know what my expectations are," Capel said. "We've been through a lot here in the past few months, really this whole year, so it's been difficult for me to think about it."

Capel said he has received "a lot of interest" in both open coaching positions but he hasn't been in a hurry to hire anyone because the next recruiting period isn't until July. Taliaferro was his most recent hire, replacing veteran coach Rod Barnes after he was hired as Georgia State's head coach in 2007.

"Experience doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to me," Capel said. "Look at me. Look at my plight. I just want people that are good."