For once, Travis Ford can take a deep breath and smile. After injuries and transfers marred a difficult and humbling 2011-12 campaign, Ford learned Wednesday that the NCAA has ruled senior wing J.P. Olukemi is eligible for the entire season as opposed to simply the first semester. If you’re wondering why exactly Olukemi originally could only play the fall semester, get ready for a tricky (late Halloween pun intended) and mysterious story. Years ago, he took a few junior college classes after his prep school shut down the basketball team, which unknowingly caused him to waste a semester of eligibility per NCAA rules. That’s why it appeared he may not be eligible for the second semester until the NCAA granted Olukemi and Oklahoma State a wavier on Wednesday. We’ve never heard of a scenario in which a player could not compete during the second semester — we’re used to dealing with players who must sit out first semesters after transferring — so it certainly was a bizarre circumstance.
So congratulations, J.P. And congratulations to Oklahoma State, which lost Brian Williams to a season-ending injury earlier this preseason. Olukemi is perhaps the best athlete on a team full of guys who can jump out of the gym, and the Cowboys could have really used his abilities a year ago. This guy can not only leap like no other, but he’s also a handful to guard when he’s slashing and attacking the rim. He helps on the defensive end too since he can guard a variety of positions. Olukemi may not be a star, but he’s an all-around solid player and athlete with a higher ceiling than most. When Big 12 play gears up, the Cowboys will now have a bunch of big, physical hybrid guards and wings: Markel Brown (6’3”), Le’Bryan Nash (6’7”), Marcus Smart (6’4”) and Olukemi (6’6”). Now, if only Olukemi were a point guard, maybe Travis Ford would be able to rest a little easier at night. After Cezar Guerrero’s transfer, that’s the troubling position for this team, and it could be up to Smart to fill that duty.