The state of Texas has been a hot bed for Oklahoma State basketball for decades, but within the last three years it has not been just producing players for OSU; it's been producing stars.
Elijah Thomas is a top ten recruit nationally for the 2015 class, and he has found himself with a bevy of connections with current and future players for the Cowboys.
Thomas and current Cowboy Jeffrey Carroll have known each other for most of their lives. Childhood friends, Thomas says that Carroll is "like a brother to me."
"We lived across the street from each other growing up, and we spent almost every day with each other," Thomas said.
Thomas, like most top recruits, has pressure coming from many different directions on what school to attend, but doesn't feel any pressure from Carroll to come to OSU. That may play a role in the power forwards decision-making.
"I definitely think that it will play a role in my decision making. He and Austin [Grandstaff] will be people that I weigh my decision on."
Austin Grandstaff, an OSU 2015 commitment is another connection that Thomas has to the program. Grandstaff, the four star shooting guard has played with Thomas for years and Thomas lived with Grandstaff for three years. With Grandstaff being in the same class as Thomas, the same pressures that Thomas feels with Carroll are present. Once again, Thomas said that they would play a role in his decision but he does not feel the pressure on him.
"Homecoming and Hoops" from a fans perspective was a mind-blowing array of light shows and cinematic presentations, but from a recruits perspective, it is much different.
"I liked it, it had a good feel and I could feel the craziness from the fans. That is important to a student athlete," Thomas said.
This was not the first time coming to Stillwater for Thomas. He has gained a greater feel for the community after this second visit.
"This was my second visit to Stillwater and I can tell that this community is like a family. It also helps the family atmosphere when your best friend [Carroll] already goes there," Thomas said.
One thing stuck with Thomas more than anything else coming off this latest visit. It is the rabid nature of Cowboy faithful and how important basketball is to this community and school. The passion of the fans at "Homecoming and Hoops" was what caught his eye and from there on he could tell that Stillwater is a place that love its athletes.
Oklahoma State is the only school that Thomas has taken multiple visits to that is not in the state of Texas.
"I have taken a ton of visits, but the only ones I have taken multiple times are [Texas] A&M, UT, SMU, and TCU," Thomas said.
Obviously the most important people that recruits come into contact with on a visit are the coaches that may be in charge of using their talents one day. Thomas understands that coach Travis Ford has high goals for the Oklahoma State program, and he makes that clear to recruits like Thomas.
"I am very high on the staff at OSU. The thing I like most about Coach Ford is that he keeps his word. A lot of coaches out there will tell you what you want to hear and never intend on keeping their word. Coach Ford does. He also has high expectations for his players. He doesn't just want them to succeed at the collegiate level, he wants them to be able to take their skills to that next level [the NBA]," Thomas said.
Coach Ford has made a substantial impression on Thomas and as he comes in contact with him more and more, that relationship will continue to grow.
The Here and Now:
Amongst all the hoopla, Thomas still has another year and a half of high school and two more high school seasons before he takes the floor a university, and Thomas is still very focused on the goals that he has for himself.
"I want to be great, and I am not satisfied with just being good. I want to be known as the best of all time," Thomas said.
"I also want to have fun with it. I don't want to get burnt out on this," Thomas said.
He also has goals that he wants his team to reach.
"I think that our team this year can win state. Everyone obviously wants to win state, but if we do what we can do, we really can win it," Thomas said.
"I have a lot of goals for myself this season, and that is not because I am only thinking about myself, but I want to always be pushing myself and hopefully that will make the team better," Thomas said.
"I am looking to make my decision towards the end of my high school career. Every kid has that dream of making their commitment on ESPN on signing day, and I want to be able to do that. But, if I feel I know what I want to do sooner, then I'll end it then," Thomas said.