Big 12 Summer Update: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Posted by dnspewak on August 7th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writer Danny Spewak (@dspewak) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. The final team on the list — Oklahoma State.

2011-12 record: 15-18, 7-11 (7th place, Big 12)

While his peers in the coaching community were chasing recruits this summer and lounging by the pool, Travis Ford took the stand during a rape trial to testify on behalf of a former player. This wasn’t about basketball anymore. This was about the life of Darrell Williams, facing a prison sentence after two women at a party accused him of groping them in 2010. The soaring expectations in 2012-13, thanks to the arrival of freshman star Marcus Smart and the return of sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, would have to wait. Ford argued for Williams’ innocence on the stand, and several former teammates attended the trial. The defense argued that the two women may have misidentified Williams, but that didn’t convince a jury. It convicted the forward on two counts, sending him into an uncontrollable sob as police escorted him out. Williams was never a star, and he had not played since February 2011. Still, this is not your average legal situation. That kind of thing happens all the time — like this weekend, when police arrested Cowboys’ center Philip Jurick for marijuana possession. In those situations, programs discipline, suspend and move on. When a former player heads to prison on a rape conviction, though, it takes a little while to recover. So that’s where Travis Ford sits with this Oklahoma State program right now. After a traumatic whirlwind of a summer, he must now find a way to recover from the graduation of heart-and-soul guard Keiton Page and transform this collection of individually talented parts into a winning team. It’d be nice, too, if he could find a viable point guard.

For All The Criticism, It’s Easy To Forget Nash Won Freshman of the Year Honors in 2011-12

Summer Orientation: Everybody knows Marcus Smart. Just ask Billy Donovan and Mark Few about the OSU freshman, who wowed them at the U-18 Championships this summer. “He was our leader from the moment the players introduced themselves,” Few told CBS’ Gary Parrish. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around — and that includes all the Zags I’ve coached.” That single quote from Few sums up Marcus Smart at the most basic level. He may be a McDonald’s All-American with NBA talent, and he may be a scoring guard with ungodly physical gifts and slashing ability. That’s all great, but it’s not even what Smart is known for. He’s known as a leader. Clutch. A playmaker. The kind of guy who prides himself on his instincts, defensive prowess, smarts and basketball savvy rather than his point-per-game average. These are the qualities that have Travis Ford gushing about his freshman, to the point where he’s already anointing Smart as a team leader after he excelled in individual workouts this summer. Perhaps we’re reading too much into the Rivals.com star rankings and the spectacular performance at the U-18 games, and maybe all of this talk of early leadership and the “ultimate teammate” is overkill for a guy who hasn’t stepped on the court yet. The beauty of the situation for Smart and the Cowboys, though, is that he’s not necessarily counted on to carry this team. Le’Bryan Nash often had those expectations as a freshman a year ago, but his decision to return for his sophomore year means the two highly-touted talents can feed off each other.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 01.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on January 16th, 2012

  1. In a sign of the times at Texas Tech, coach Billy Gillispie praised his walk-ons for their second half performance at Texas A&M after the conclusion of the 67-54 loss. On the road against one of the Big 12′s biggest disappointments, the Red Raiders used Clark Lammert and Luke Adams after halftime, and they combined for 17 points. “It came down to pride,” Lammert said. That doesn’t appear to be a major problem for this team, though, and Gillispie says the rest of the guys are “trying like crazy.” That’s a good start at least.
  2. Oklahoma State lost to undefeated Baylor this weekend. That surprised nobody. But the 105-65 margin? That’s a little concerning even for a crumbling Oklahoma State team playing on the road against the league’s best team. Ford says his team needs to move on and try to learn from the experience, which had to be humbling for these Cowboys. Interestingly, Markel Brown did say Baylor “could be beat” after the game though he did also offer words of respect. Sure, Baylor can be beat. But not by Brown’s team.
  3. Despite the ugly loss, the future looks bright for Oklahoma State thanks to a few incoming recruits. Marcus Smart and Phil Forte sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about that future and they will be catalysts in trying to right the ship for Travis Ford. Smart is the more heralded recruit, but he and Forte are good friends that go way back. So far back, in fact, that most refer to them as brothers. That family tie may come in handy next season.
  4. Frank Martin‘s post-game comments keep getting better and better. After Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, Martin lashed out at the world: ““That’s why I tell you to not look at a team’s record,” Martin said. “Did Oklahoma look like an 0-3 team in conference play today? Did they look like a team that scored 48 points their last game out?” He has a point. Lon Kruger is one of the league’s most respected veteran coaches, and he’s going to get things rolling in Norman eventually. He also has a decent core this year that has the potential to play well at home and spring a few upsets as it did on Saturday.
  5. And staying with Oklahoma, Kruger says the Kansas State win was big for his program in the early stages of the rebuilding process. Sure, Oklahoma played reasonably well in the non-conference, but it still lost an ugly game to Saint Louis and blew a lead at Cincinnati. Then, after an 0-3 conference start, it appeared the Sooners may fall apart. But they’ve changed their approach lately, and as Kruger says, they are playing with a tougher attitude. Kruger’s not all that pleased yet, however. “We’re not anywhere near Big 12 (tough), physical and aggressive… We need to be a lot more physical, be a lot tougher.”
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