Oklahoma State was already in disaster mode after two point guards transferred out of the program in a span of eight days last month, but the latest news just seems cruel for coach Travis Ford. He announced Monday that starting wing J.P. Olukemi will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear, an injury he suffered in the second half of a loss to Virginia Tech this weekend.
The 6’5” junior was not having the breakout season many had anticipated, but he still played major minutes for the Cowboys and may have been their best athlete. He was a nightmare match-up for bigger defenders because of his quickness, and he could have easily overcome his quiet non-conference performance to emerge as a leader during the Big 12 season.
Instead, Olukemi will cheer on his teammates from the bench– and there aren’t many of them left. With point guars Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell having already left the team and fellow guard Markel Brown potentially missing the Big 12 opener against Texas Tech due to a minor hip injury the Cowboys will have a very short bench. Ford says Brown is day-to-day, and if he cannot play, OSU would have just six players remaining in its regular rotation.
Olukemi averaged 9.4 points per game in 13 games this season. Oklahoma State had trouble scoring with him in the lineup, and now that he’s gone, the improvement of Keiton Page and LeBryan Nash will be even more important. The two leading scorers for the Cowboys are the only players capable of taking over a basketball game on the offensive end. Nash has struggled to acclimate himself to Division I basketball so far, and the lack of point guards on the roster has forced Page into an uncomfortable role. It is up to them, though, to turn this season around.
Freshman guard Brian Williams could actually benefit from this situation. With Olukemi in foul trouble and injured during the past two games, Williams logged a combined 74 minutes against Southern Methodist (double-overtime win) and Virginia Tech. He scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in that SMU victory, and he finished with a career-high 14 points against the Hokies. If this season heads in the toilet, Ford can at least monitor the progress of Williams, who appears to have a bright future.