Although plenty of other Oklahoma State sports are on fire in all the right ways, the basketball program is one of the few regressing. After another first-round (second) in the NCAA Tournament last year, many called for coach Travis Ford's head. It wasn't pretty as rumors of a buy-out surfaced, which could have gotten Holder out of the monstrosity that is Fords contract.
That didn't happen. It's not likely to happen this year either, as Ford still has some time on that huge contract and he's still bringing in pretty big recruits, I think he'll stay around until at least 2016-17. But the team will have to rely on its depth more than ever this year as it is lacking the star talent it's had in recent years with Marcus Smart or LeBryan Nash and even Markel Brown. Let's take a look at the starting five headlined by senior Phil Forte, who is good, but is he good enough to be the centerpiece?
The (Assumed) Starters
No. 1 - Fr. Jawun Evans (6-0, 175 pounds)
Averaging 23.3 points, 7.5 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game in high school is no small feat. However, the question is if it will translate or not. Helped Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Championship win gold. Could be a good addition to the team in terms of passing and spreading the ball. Not going to impress you with scoring but will if he has to. More of a true point guard.
No. 13 - Sr. Phil Forte III (5-11, 185 pounds)
There's a lot to say about Forte. He's basically the basketball teams J.W. Walsh. He's the guy that does what most wouldn't think he can do, the guy who got a scholarship after a friend but came here with that friend. He's probably the most consistent player OSU has had for the last four years. He's basically the second coming of Keaton Page, almost. In his career he has 1,267 points, good enough for an average of 12.8 per game through 99 played. Forte shoots over 86 percent from the free throw line and nearly 39 percent from the three, and shooting just over 40 percent from the field. He's been a great player and while he posted a career-best 479 points last season, he also had his averages dropped due to the team relying on him more than ever. Forte will see that happen again this year, but should still remain consistent as he's the type of player who is hard to cover.
No. 22 R-Sr. Jeff Newberry (6-2, 185 pounds)
Averaging 6.7 points per game in a year which he averaged 21 minutes per game, Newberry showed inconsistency. At the end of the year however against OU and WVU, Newberry showed some promise while he went on a stretch in which he shot 12-of-19 from the field. If we can see that from him more often, the pressure taken off Forte and Evans could potentially open up the offense.
No. 23 Jr. Leyton Hammonds (6-7, 215 pounds)
Hammonds shot 33 percent last year from the three, a marginal improvement over his freshman year. If he can improve that and use his length to help defend the prolific offensive play makers in the Big 12, the Cowboys can rely on him and the center to shut the paint down. However, in over 500 career minutes played, he's only picked up three blocks, so hopefully that's something they've been working on this summer.
No. 41 So. Mitchell Solomon (6-9, 240 pounds)
Although the team struggled a lot last season, Solomon was a bright spot and a crowd favorite. With 19 blocks in 32 games last season, Solomon became an Internet sensation for the Cowboy social media crowd. He wasn't awful on the offensive side, either, shooting 46.7 percent and picking up 42 of his 86 rebounds offensively.
The Other Guys
No. 32 R-Sr. Anthony Allen Jr. (7-0, 240 pounds)
Let's be clear. Ford is a good recruiter, when it comes to guards. He can never seem to master the big man recruiting though. He's constantly bringing in guys who are only getting looks because they're big, not because they're big and good. Allen is a perfect example. His big frame and long hair may look like he may be able to do this whole basketball thing but we've seen otherwise in his short stint with the Cowboys so far. If you go read his player bio on okstate.com, you'll notice one big thing is that most of his "career achievements" come against teams like UNT, Southeastern Louisiana and Prairie View A&M. No knocks on those schools as I'm sure they're decent at their own level, but the one actual program listed is two blocks against Kansas. He did however shoot 16-for-21 on the year, but that should happen when you're a total of four feet from the basket. Unless improvement was major over the offseason and Allen focused on basketball instead of extracurricular activities, his minutes will and should be rare.
No. 2 So. Tyree Griffin (5-10, 165 pounds)
It's not as if his frame screams "Hey, I play Division I college basketball at a historically great program." But his production off the bench is at least saying it. Last year he only had one start, against Texas Tech and it was solid as he put up 10 points. Off the bench last year he grabbed 330 minutes and averaged only 1.4 points per game while only shooting around 30 percent. That's not what I want to talk about, though. With the loss of Hickey, the team will need a spark off the bench who can play defense and still spread it to his teammates. That's what he can do.
No. 4 So. Joe Burton (6-6, 210 pounds)
He seems to always be lost in the mix. In 2014-15, he had shot 33 percent from the field. He barely ever played. I wouldn't be surprised to see barely ever changed to barely this year.
No. 5 So. Tavarius Shine (6-5, 250 pounds)
He interests me. At 13.1 minutes per game last season, I expect that to jump at least by five. Shine played well, averaging about 3.4 points a game, but it's largely due to the fact that he didn't play much the first half of the season. He contributed with 12 points in the loss to Oregon in the Tournament and shot 31.8 percent from deep. His defensive ability will also be used off the bench as much as it was last season. Expect him to be that sixth man type guy.
No. 14 R. So. Igor Ibaka (6-9, 240 pounds)
We literally know nothing on this guy. He's Oklahoma City Thunder star Serge Ibaka's little brother and if he can play anything like his brother, he could be a game changer. However, he's not thought to be starter right now. All I've heard from people is he's a big body but he's not quite there yet. Could be a raw talent and had five 20-plus games in 2013-14. He took a year off last year due to some issues, so that could be an issue as well. This is a guy I'm very interested in seeing in the early part of the season.
No. 24 Fr. Davon Dillard (6-5, 215 pounds)
He was a four-star recruit, who if you remember correctly, changed his mind on going to Cal and decided on OSU instead. He can dunk, shoot threes and is pretty big. Look out, Phil, someone may be trying to steal a few minutes from you at the two-guard.
No. 30 R-So. Jeffrey Carroll (6-6, 205 pounds)
He grabbed almost 12 minutes a game last year and people still don't know him. He's decent, though. While shooting 39 percent from the field, he grabbed 86 points last year. However, defense pops up again for Fords bunch as he had five steals and five blocks.
No. 32 Graduate Chris Olivier (6-8 230 pounds)
I honestly couldn't tell you anymore on this guy than the okstate.com roster bio could. He probably won't get a lot of time, but then again, if the scoring isn't happening, don't be surprised to see No. 32 trot out there with Phil and the boys. He could help in the post, but the Cowboys could also find that from a number of guys on the roster. He averaged 13 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game his junior year with Eastern Illinois.
No. 0 Sr. Ford Stuen (6-2, 190 pounds)
After 15 minutes his freshman year he picked up 18 in his sophomore and then saw decreased time last year down to 10 total minutes on the season. He doesn't play and that likely won't change very much. He is two-for-six from the field on his career but has been known to play some decent defense. His uncle is coach Ford, which is sort of weird now that I know his name is Ford.
There you have it, the roster preview for the 2014-15 Oklahoma State Cowboys basketball squad. This team could be decent, but we won't really know anything until conference play when they play some real teams. For real, it's almost as if this team has the same guy scheduling as Baylor football because they could win almost all of their nonconference games. But we'll talk about that on the next Oklahoma State Ultimate Basketball Preview.