M'Baye used transfer year to improve

NORMAN, Okla. -- Watching him battle in practice and observe Oklahoma basketball games from the sidelines, it was easy to see that Amath M'Baye was itching to get back onto the court.

"I'm looking forward to being able to compete again," M'Baye said. "It makes me smile every day."

The Sooners forward transferred to OU from Wyoming last summer then sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules. M'Baye practiced with the Sooners but had to watch as OU got off to a terrific start in non-conference play before struggling in the Big 12. The junior would have loved to be out there battling with his teammates, but that just wasn't an option.

Harnessing his hunger to play into improving his overall game became the only option. So he decided to take advantage of his transfer season and expand his game. At 6-foot-9, M'Baye excelled in the post and around the free throw line at Wyoming, so he wanted to improve his perimeter ability.

"Dribbling, shooting, all of that stuff," he said. "I used to live in the mid-post. I think, at some point, people understood that was my strength and I didn't have enough tools to counter.

"Now, I think I'm more able to get out there and vary the stuff I can do, whether it's shoot, get into the post, pass or rebound. I think I have more tools in my game, offensively and defensively."

The hard work has paid off. Anyone who has seen the talented forward practice knows he'll make a major impact when he steps on the floor in crimson and cream this fall. He has developed the ability to shoot and is now comfortable beyond the three-point line, even if he hans't noticed his own improvement.

"It's a little bit like when you have a son and you can't really tell if he's getting taller because you see him everyday. I can't tell," M'Baye said. "I get good feedback but I can't really tell myself. When I play sometimes I figure out, 'Hey, I've never done that before' and I am able to do it now."

And he can tell he's improved because he no longer feels uncomfortable on the perimeter.

"I feel more comfortable," M'Baye said. "I used to hesitate out there, I wouldn't feel right outside of the three-point line. Now, I know what I want to do, what I can do. I know I have more tools to my game."

With his size, athleticism and ability to play inside and outside, M'Baye could be a matchup nightmare in the Big 12. He'll be able to hold his own as a stretch power forward, forcing opponents to try to find a way to matchup with him.

It's all because he took his transfer season seriously.

"You watch the game from a whole different point of view," he said. "And I never thought I'd watch it from that point of view, ever. You sit down, take a step back and look at the game from a different angle. It just helps you a lot because there's a lot of things you don't see."

And he got a greater appreciation for the effort required to succeed in the Big 12.

"Sometimes you think you're hustling 100 percent during a game but you don't," M'Baye said. "Sometimes you relax for one possession and give up a bucket and that bucket can cost you the game. There's a lot of stuff you don't think about when you're strictly a player, but when you sit down and watch and talk with the coaches and are involved in the game but in a different way, it helps you understand a lot about the game.

"I know what I am supposed to do now and I know when I do something wrong. I think it really helped me."

He often stood out as the Sooners' most-competitive player in practice last year as his effort and will to win in drills, game situations and scrimmages was unparalleled. Playing with the scout team, he made things difficult for OU's starting five in scrimmage scenarios, showing the ability to knock down perimeter jumpers and blocking shots on the defensive end.

If he carries those traits over to the Lloyd Noble Center court this winter, he'll be a difference maker as a junior.

"I was blessed with skills, size and great people around me," he said. "I'm just trying to make the best of it."

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