Ready to move on

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - John Hel­s­ley jhel­s­ley@ok­la­homan.com

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?

[PHOTO BY BRYAN TERRY, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Jef­frey Car­roll, a pre­sea­son All-Big 12 pick, gives the Cow­boys a sig­nif­i­cant piece for the sea­son ahead.

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