McGriff pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship to young for­wards

The Oklahoman - - SPORTS - STAFF WRITER Nathan Ruiz nruiz@ok­la­homan.com

STILL­WA­TER — Coach Mike Boyn­ton per­haps best de­scribes ju­nior Cam McGriff’s value to the Ok­la­homa State bas­ket­ball team not with an ex­am­ple of what he does on the court, but with an im­age of what the Cow­boys look like with him off it.

“If there’s ever a day Cam has to go to the bath­room for 15 min­utes of prac­tice,” Boyn­ton said, “there’s just the blind lead­ing the blind down there.”

With the ex­cep­tion of Trey Reeves, a walk-on who Fri­day was placed on schol­ar­ship, McGriff is the Cow­boys’ lone non­fresh­man for­ward.

On a team with more than twice as many new­com­ers as re­turn­ers, McGriff’s ex­pe­ri­ence is in­valu­able down low as the Cow­boys get set to open their sea­son Satur­day at Char­lotte.

“He goes first in ev­ery drill and we just watch his ev­ery step and try to mimic what he does be­cause he’s ob­vi­ously such a great player,” fresh­man Dun­can De­muth said. “We’re just try­ing to be like him.”

McGriff dis­played lead­er­ship traits last sea­son, when he posted 20 points and nine re­bounds in both of OSU’s up­sets at Kansas and West Vir­ginia, but the at­tri­tion on the Cow­boys’ ros­ter ac­cel­er­ates the process.

De­muth, Yor Anei, Ken­tre­vi­ous Jones and Mau­rice Cal­loo all have traits that ex­cite Boyn­ton, but their youth re­mains a weight.

Anei started the Cow­boys’ ex­hi­bi­tion against Oua­chita Bap­tist on Sun­day and is pro­jected to do so again Satur­day.

He has “an un­be­liev­able knack for shot­block­ing,” Boyn­ton said. Jones has lost more than 50 pounds since ar­riv­ing in Still­wa­ter, but he re­mains a dif­fi­cult force to move in the paint.

De­muth has high bas­ket­ball in­tel­li­gence, said Boyn­ton, who added Cal­loo “may be our most nat­u­rally gifted player,” with an abil­ity to shoot, pass and de­fend.

But they’re raw, and that’s where McGriff comes in.

“They watch ev­ery­thing that I do, so I try to not make as much mis­takes,” McGriff said. “I want them to learn from me.”

His own growth pro­vides a path for them to fol­low.

Af­ter start­ing one game as a fresh­man, McGriff started 17 last sea­son, in­clud­ing the Cow­boys’ fi­nal 14 games.

In the first half of Sun­day’s ex­hi­bi­tion, he missed all four of his shot at­tempts and had seven turnovers. He fin­ished with a dou­ble-dou­ble, for­feit­ing no turnovers af­ter half­time.

“That's how a ju­nior han­dles a first half like that,” Boyn­ton said. “A fresh­man couldn't prob­a­bly do that as well, have seven turnovers and not make a shot in the first half, still fin­ish with 10 re­bounds and find other ways to im­pact the game. That's a sign of ma­tu­rity, a sign of growth and a sign that he un­der­stands it's not just shot-mak­ing that makes him valu­able to our team.”

OSU AT CHAR­LOTTE

•When: 3 p.m., Satur­day

•Where: Hal­ton Arena, Char­lotte, North Carolina

•TV: ESPN+ ($5 sub­scrip­tion avail­able at plus.espn.com)

•Ra­dio: ok­state.com/watch

Three things to know

• Ok­la­homa State opens its 110th sea­son, do­ing so on the road for the first time since 1989. OSU has won 23 straight sea­son open­ers.

• The Cow­boys will pos­si­bly be without three vet­eran guards. Grad­u­ate trans­fer Mike Cun­ning­ham is re­cov­er­ing from a left ham­string pull. Red­shirt sopho­more Michael Weath­ers re­turned from a two-month sus­pen­sion ear­lier this week. Ju­nior Cur­tis Jones, who trans­ferred from In­di­ana in the mid­dle of last sea­son, had his waiver de­nied by the NCAA and re­mains un­able to play un­til Dec. 16.

• Ju­nior Trey Reeves, son of OSU great Bryant “Big Coun­try” Reeves, was placed on schol­ar­ship for the 2018-19 sea­son Fri­day.

[PHO­TOS BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa State ju­nior Cam McGriff has worked to teach the Cow­boys’ four fresh­man for­wards lead­ing to Satur­day’s sea­son opener at Char­lotte.

Mike Boyn­ton be­gins his sec­ond sea­son as Ok­la­homa State’s bas­ket­ball coach Satur­day at Char­lotte.

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