There are certain positions in all sports that as fans we feel like we know well enough to evaluate -- QB, Offensive Coordinator, and Pitcher springs to mind -- but a basketball player is by far the easiest of all for an average fan to judge. It is a very naked sport and as such we watch games and all know that the PG should have hit the cutter on the baseline, the Center should have passed out of the double team, Page should just shoot it, Sidorakis should quit being Sidorakis,etc. It is the easiest sport for a fan to have an opinion about every players ability. And as a result, it is easy to pick out moments of greatness from players that don't regularly show it. A guy that has been plodding up and down the court all of a sudden pulling off a lightning quick spin move for an easy lay-in, a guy that is getting burned all day all of a sudden locking down his man in the last few minutes of a close game, and so on. These moments of greatness are what we consider to be this players potential if he could just play like that all the time, and as fans we are always holding them to this measure.
Ultimately most players will fall short of these lofty expectations, so how does a player get to, or even exceed, their potential? It is a combination of factors, most of which are in the players control. In order for a player to be able to play at or above their perceived highest level of play, the following things must happen:
- The player must know their strengths and weaknesses, and tailor their game accordingly. If you aren't a great outside shooter, quit shooting contested threes, etc
- The player's coach and teammates must understand the players role and use him correctly. The best bad example of this being Caple insisting on sticking Blake Griffin in the low post where he was just an above average player...when he is cutting and driving he is a once-in-a-generation player.
- This is the most obvious and our favorite one to harp on as fans... the player must have the work ethic and drive to meet their potential at all times. This is usually where players fall short, and why they can look amazing for brief flashes.. they simply lack the work ethic to do it all the time.
Now I am not sure if I am strange for doing this or if it is a common attribute of fans, but for some reason I am always evaluating how close Oklahoma State basketball players are to what I perceive to be their potential, and these arbitrary evaluations always stick in my head. I am continually thinking about if Player X is playing to his potential or not. So if something were to remind me of Melvin Sanders, I would immediately think of a guy that wasn't all that physically gifted, but knew his role, knew his strengths and weaknesses, tailored his game accordingly, played his ass off, and as a result exceeded his potential during his time at Oklahoma State. And I do this with everyone... so how about a list?
Here is my list of Cowboys since 1996 (when I first consider myself old enough to have a decent opinion) that most impressively met and surpassed their expected potential during their time in Stillwater, based solely on the potential I saw in them. This is in no particular order except for my #1 is definitely Byron Eaton.
List after Jump
- Byron Eaton - Built like no one we have ever seen on a basketball court, he was basically a 5-inches shorter Charles Barkley, but he made use of that big frame to get physical at the PG position and milk every inch of talent he had out of himself.
- Melvin Sanders - An absolute lock down defender. He could never develop a great shot or much of an offensive game, but he could shut down anyone on a basketball court. (Marcus Dove almost made the list for the same reasons, but I always felt like he had some unrealized potential on the offensive end)
- Ivan McFarlin - Not terribly tall (6'7) to be a true center, but he had soft hands and could get inside position on anyone. He didn't have the smoothest post moves ever, but like a Kevin McHale he found ways to score, even if it wasn't pretty.
- John Lucas - Blessed with speed and good ball handling, he used these assets to their fullest.
Andre Williams - If anyone ever knew their role and got the most out of it, it was Dre Day. A fierce rebounder and defender in the Ben Wallace mold (even in hairstyle), Williams controlled the paint and scared the shit out of driving guards.
- Terrence Crawford - A highly recruited talent out of high school who was basically playing without knees by his junior season. Crawford was never a star, but provided leadership and hustle off the bench doing as much as he could given all his physical limitations.
- Doug Gottlieb - Couldn't shoot. I mean some guys are bad shooters, but Doug Gottlieb COULD NOT SHOOT. A career 37% FG% and 45% FT%, he racked up 8.2 assists per game, played hard on both ends, and threw more alley-ops to Desmond Mason than I could ever remember.
- Tyler Hatch's hair
And of course, while the guys that met or exceeded expectations are kinda remembered, the guys that fell way short really stick out. I am not listing the guys that just never made it (Gerald Green, Estelle Laster, etc), I am talking/writing about the guys that played for the Pokes for multiple season, showed flashes of greatness, but never could put it all together for whatever reason. Once again these are not ranked, but JamesOn Curry is for sure my #1.
- JamesOn Curry - Incredible talent, proved he could take anyone off the dribble, excellent shooter. Curry could have been an elite college talent, but for some reason fell in love with shooting threes and seemed to not like being "the man". His best overall season was as a freshman coming off the bench.
- David Monds - Big, strong, good inside game, but either did not give a shit about playing collegiate basketball, or hated Sean Sutton so much he just never tried.
- Terrell Harris - Harris had a nice career, but he relegated himself to the role of outside shooting assassin when he was such a good slasher. About once a game either in transition or when he was feeling it in the halfcourt he would just blow by the entire defense for a layup. He had an ultra-quick first step that few defenders could stay in front of but for some reason just liked to hang out at the three point line.
- Obi Muonelo - See Harris, Terrell, but more physical and should have been a much better rebounder than he was.
What do you think? Which Oklahoma State players have either exceeded or fallen short of what you thought they were capable of?