Travis Ford has been a busy man.After the turbulent and disappointing end to last season, he had his work cut out to refill the vacated roster spots that had been left vacant after graduation, transfers, dismissals, and the draft.
The seven departures took with them:
- 61% (1653 of 2728) of last season's points scored,
- 62% (740 of 1203) of rebounds,
- 74% (341 of 463) of assists,
- 74% (193 of 260) of steals, and
- 68% (108 of 160) of blocks.
- Marcus Smart (draft),
- Markel Brown (graduation),
- Brian Williams (transfer to Louisiana-Lafayette),
- Kamari Murphy (transfer to Miami),
- Stevie Clark (dismissed),
- Gary Gaskins (left team), and
- Mason Cox (graduation).
Now I know you're thinking: "Well Stevie, Gary, and Mason didn't really contribute THAT much, is finding replacements for them really that important?" Well to answer your question, yes it is. While they only combined to produce 4.6% of the teams overall stats, they did provide much needed depth to the bench during non-conference play and Stevie provided the sixth man role to relieve Smart before being dismissed. Towards the end of the season, Mason would frequent that sixth man role to relieve Kamari Murphy. But that isn't where the true problem lies.
That comes from the fact that Marcus, Markel, Brian, and Kamari produced 58% of the team's stats from last season. This leaves three players on the roster who have started a game during their tenure at Oklahoma State: Phil Forte, Le'Bryan Nash, and Michael Cobbins. On top of that, there are only 2 other players on the roster who have seen significant playing time: Leyton Hammonds and Christien Sager. That means Travis Ford had his work cut out for him to get a full roster ready for next season.
Whether or not you buy into the statement that Travis Ford is an excellent recruiter, he did manage to sign a respectable class to fill all seven spots that were vacated. This class is highlighted with 2 point guards, 2 small forwards, 2 centers, and a transfer guard from LSU. Here's a breakdown on this class:
- Jeff Newberry - 6'2" PG from New Mexico Junior College - Newberry is one of the top PG recruits in this year's JUCO class. He brings with him good size and speed paired with smart and precise passing and good all-around shooting to make him an excellent point guard capable of running the court. Look for him to take the starting PG spot recently vacated by Marcus Smart.
- Tyree Griffin - 5'10" PG from O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans, LA - Griffin's Louisiana state championship run named him the Large Schools Player of the Year. He's small, fast, explosive, dynamic, and can shoot from range while still having impressive finishing at the rim. Remind you of anyone? Expect to see him take the 6th man role/PG relief spot previously occupied by Stevie Clark.
- Joe Burton - 6'7" SF from Atascocita High School in Humble, TX - Burton comes in as the top high school recruit in this class. He earned his spot in the ESPN100 with great size, strength, and speed, precise passing, excellent finishing, and phenomenal athleticism. He can elevate and fight for put-backs with players bigger than him while still having the speed and agility to run the floor with the best of them. He should see a similar role to Kamari Murphy's - primarily low and high post offense and defense but he shouldn't be shying away from the fastbreak play anytime soon.
- Tavarius Shine - 6'6" SF from Fork Union Military Academy in Irving, TX - Shine was the last of the class to sign their LOI but don't overlook him. He brings in good shooting from 3PT range, solid FT shooting, remarkable finishing ability, good court vision and passing, and great speed for his size. He can score and steal with remarkable explosiveness. Look to see him take Brian Williams role of the off-the-bench workhorse who isn't afraid to fight and scrap for every possession.
- Anthony Allen - 7'1" C from Lamar State College - The last time Oklahoma State had someone named Anthony (Tony) Allen on their roster, they went to the Final Four. Good omen for next season? I sure hope so. Allen comes in as a monster seven-footer from the JUCO circuit with impressive size and strength. In his two seasons at Lamar State, he lead the NJCAA in blocks, averaging 5.1 BPG during this last season. He also averaged a respectable 8.1 PPG and 6.3 RPG during last season as well. Look for him to take Mason Cox's (end of the season) back up big man spot and don't be surprised if he challenges to take a starting role alongside Michael Cobbins.
- Mitch Solomon - 6'9" C from Bixby High School in Bixby, OK - Travis Ford is making a good habit of signing the top in-state recruit now that he has signed both Clark and Solomon in back to back years. He has great size and strength, fights hard for rebounds, and is consistent in the offensive low post. While at 6'9", he's no small man, but he is a little shy of being as tall as most college centers so except him to play power forward, filling the role of relief post defense formerly occupied by Gary Gaskins (during non-conference play).
- Anthony Hickey - 5'11" transfer G from LSU - Hickey had clashes with his coach that lost him his scholarship at LSU and has since transferred to Oklahoma State for summer classes and is waiting on an NCAA waiver that will allow him to play in the fall. He is loaded with good ball handling skills paired with active hands that are eager to steal and strip loose balls. During the 2013-2014 season at LSU, he averaged 8.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.8 SPG. Look to see him fill the combo guard spot that Markel Brown would play frequently, handling both the wing and ball handling responsibilities.
In addition to this notable signing class, he also signed another for the 2015 class, 6'9" Northeastern Oklahoma Junior College forward Igor Ibaka, brother of Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka.
Next season is still just a mystery to you as it is to me, but on the surface it appears that Travis Ford has properly filled the roles of those departing from the team. We have yet to see how they'll adapt to Division 1 college basketball but their combined skill set is promising. So now it's back into Travis' hands to find chemistry and develop rotations. (That's got you feeling warm and fuzzy, right?) Will it be a season of met low expectations, or the most pleasant surprise Travis Ford has seen in his time at Oklahoma State? Hell if I know.