Ready to move on
With their program in the middle of an FBI investigation, Oklahoma State players are ready to hit the basketball court at 9 p.m. Friday for the annual Homecoming and Hoops event.
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State basketball attempts to take a step forward Friday night.
While the cloud of an FBI investigation remains attached to the program, the Cowboys take the court inside Gallagher-Iba Arena as part of Homecoming and Hoops. The annual event is scheduled for 9 p.m. and is open and free to the public.
The team has been practicing for two weeks, moving toward a Nov. 3 exhibition with Arkansas-Monticello, then a home season opener against Pepperdine on Nov. 10. Although the Cowboys have been working behind closed doors, key talking points remain for OSU and firstyear coach Mike Boynton.
Five non-FBI-related storylines:
The case for Carroll. Senior guard Jeffrey Carroll is believed to be the player former assistant Lamont Evans tried to push on financial advisers during the team’s road trip to West Virginia last season, as noted in the FBI affidavit. So far, there’s been no hint of wrongdoing on the part of Carroll, who is practicing and preparing for the season. He’s the key piece for this team, the only known reliable scorer who enjoyed a breakout season a year ago. Thursday, Carroll’s value was confirmed, as the league coaches voted him unanimously to the preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Filling the lineup. Other than Carroll and fellow senior Mitchell Solomon, who starts for these Cowboys, who lost Jawun Evans, Phil Forte and Leyton Hammonds from last year’s 20-13 squad? It’s complicated. Lindy Waters started 12 games as a true freshman and would have played more if not for a foot injury that plagued him down the stretch. Coaches praised Waters throughout the offseason. Tavarius Shine is nearly back to 100 percent following back surgery. Davon Dillard, who enjoyed a breakout
of sorts last winter, is rehabbing a foot injury and is expected to make another jump once healthy. Graduate transfer Kendall Smith figures to start at the point, with Brandon Averette ready for an increased role as the backup. Yankuba Sima, a 6-11 center who transferred from St. John’s last January, will provide a shot-blocking defensive presence once he’s eligible following the first semester. Cameron McGriff, Thomas Dziagwa and Lucas N’Guessan return, and true freshman guard Zack Dawson enters, all bidding for roles.
Identity search. Brad Underwood bolted and Evans took his superb playmaking skills to the NBA. So what will be the identity for Boynton’s first squad? Defense. That word — DEFENSE — is stitched across the backside of the team’s practice shorts. And it’s been the preseason focus. With more length at the guard spots in the 6-3 Smith, an available 6-6 Shine and the 6-6 Waters, Boynton may actually be able to utilize the defense Underwood wished for.
New look. OSU’s identity, from the coaching staff to the players, isn’t the only thing changing. The Cowboys are also breaking out new Nike uniforms, which are expected to feature the bandanna trim that accents the football jerseys, as well as a Phantom Pete.
Now and later. The Cowboys may be without Dillard and Sima until December, although there’s some hope that Dillard is a fast healer. So the team that starts the season could look much differently a month later. While the schedule is soft up front, the Cowboys will face tests before they’re at full strength — against Texas A&M in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, and potentially home against Wichita State and against Florida State in the Orange Bowl Classic. Can they hold up before reinforcements arrive?
Jeffrey Carroll, a preseason All-Big 12 pick, gives the Cowboys a significant piece for the season ahead.