Oklahoma beats A&M, Will Play Oregon

Written by Mike DiGiovanna at LATimes.com

Kyle Lindsted’s first sight of Buddy Hield is burnt in his mind like a brilliant tropical sunset. It was six years ago, when Lindsted, then the basketball coach at Sunrise Christian Academy in Wichita, Kan., was scouting a showcase in the Bahamas.

“He was just a little bitty guy with a smile and a dream,” Lindsted, now a Wichita State assistant, said of Hield, who was a stringy 16-year-old high school sophomore. “I just fell in love with him from the very beginning.”

The little bitty guy has grown into a strapping 6-foot-4, 214-pound senior guard whose long-range shooting skills have been compared to Stephen Curry. Hield has led Oklahoma to a NCAA West Regional semifinal at the Honda Center, where the Sooners will play Texas A&M on Thursday.

And the dream of signing a professional contract and lifting his family out of poverty is about to become reality. Hield, who is averaging 25.4 points a game and is one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top player, is projected to be a top-10 pick in June’s NBA draft.

But that smile? That hasn’t changed a bit. Hield displays a joie de vivre that has fueled his team for four years.

“Unbelievable,” Oklahoma assistant Chris Crutchfield said of Hield’s infectious smile and attitude. “We knew that when we were recruiting him, that his personality, his demeanor, was so good. … He’s a people guy, a team guy, a perfect fit. That was part of our attraction, that smile. He was always happy. He never had a frown on his face. He was always exuberant, always had energy.”

Hield also has an off-the-charts work ethic that rubbed off on teammates. When Hield signed with Oklahoma after two seasons at Sunrise Christian, Lindsted told Sooners coaches they were not going to believe how much time Hield spent in the gym.

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