Almost a year ago, it seemed we were in the same position. With several players leaving, the Oklahoma State Cowboys would need several new players to step in and replace them. With 7 out and 7 in, it seemed almost too perfect for the 'Boys to turn around the team for a fresh season. The squad that saw the court managed to complete an 18-14 season with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to the Oregon Ducks.
With the passing of the season, let's take a look at who has left the team as well.
- Le'Bryan Nash (graduation)
- Anthony Hickey Jr. (graduation)
- Marek Soucek (graduation)
- Christien Sager (graduation)
- Michael Cobbins (graduation)
- Alex Budke (graduation)
While its excellent that no one was lost to transfer, a six player turnover is still quite sizable and alarming, especially with three of those six were starters. Let's look at the stat totals this group takes with them:
- 49% of last season points
- 48% of rebounds
- 52% of assists
- 45% of steals
- 56% of blocks
Although Soucek, Sager, and Budke's bench roles may not be a huge necessity to fill, the starting point guard, forward, and post roles are now vacant, with the leading scorer, passer, and rim protector gone. So Travis Ford has his work cut out for him to have a roster ready to go in the fall. So let's take a look at who's joining the Pokes for next season.
- Jawun Evans - 6'0" PG from Kimball High School in Dallas, TX. Jawun comes in as a 4-star and the only player in the class from the ESPN100. They have him rated 33rd as the No. 6 PG in the country and an 87 overall. They tout his court-vision and his ability to run the true point position as some of his best attributes. His precision passing earned him a spot on the FIBA U19 USA team as a backup, where he averaged 1.9 PPG and 2.7 APG. He showed his ability to control the floor and set the pace of play. Look for him to come in as an immediate difference maker and take the starting point guard role vacated by Anthony Hickey Jr.
- Davon Dillard - 6'5" SF from Our Savior New American School in Gary, IN. Davon was a late pick up after he last-minute decommitted from the California Golden Bears and signed with Oklahoma State instead. He comes in a four-star small forward who is extremely athletic. On top of being a nightmare in transition, he does bring with him the ability to shoot from the outside and some smothering defense. But that's not his best attribute. His best work comes when he can slash, spin, and cut his way to the hoop while also boasting a decent array of post moves. Look for him to challenge for serious minutes as the 6th/7th man in the rotation.
- Igor Ibaka - 6'9" PF from NE Oklahoma Junior College in Miami, Oklahoma. He may be most well known for being the younger brother of Oklahoma City Thunder star Serge Ibaka, but he should earn a name for himself quickly in Stillwater. Coming out of the JUCO circuit, Igor averaged 14.0 PPG while shooting an excellent 64%. He was also a top 10 rebounder at the JUCO level, pulling in an average 9.8 RPG. But don't think he has big man syndrome; he shot a very respectable 74.2% from the FT line. Although we might have to wait and see how his offense translates to the NCAA, he will at least be a very strong, physical presence in the paint. If Ford decides to go big with his starting lineup, Igor might be challenging Anthony Allen for a starting role.
- Chris Olivier - 6'8" F from Eastern Illinois in Charleston, IL. Transferring from EIU is the team's top scorer and rebounder. Chris helped lead the team to the 2nd round of the CIT before deciding to transfer to a bigger conference. In his last season at EIU, he average 13.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. Much like Ibaka, we'll have to see if he will keep the same numbers through the transition. If he can, he will be a tremendous help to the team on both sides of the ball and may even challenge to start if Travis Ford goes small with his lineup.
With this corps group, we could see several different types of starting lineups, primarily a big and a small lineup. With a small lineup, what Travis Ford is notorious for using, we would most likely see:
PG - Juwan Evans
SG - Phil Forte III
G/F - Jeff Newberry
F - Chris Olivier / Leyton Hammonds
F/C - Mitchell Solomon
6 - Tyree Griffin
7 - Davon Dillard / Jeffrey Carroll / Tavarius Shine / Joe Burton
8 - Igor Ibaka / Anthony Allen Jr.
And if he were to go big:
PG - Juwan Evans
SG - Phil Forte
G/F - Jeff Newberry
F - Mitch Solomon
C - Anthony Allen / Igor Ibaka
6 - Tyree Griffin
7 - Chris Olivier / Leyton Hammonds / Davon Dillard / Jeffrey Carroll / Tavarius Shine / Joe Burton
One common thing between these two lineups is something Travis Ford hasn't really had during his time at Oklahoma State: a deep, talented, and experienced bench. Without losing role players to transfers, Ford finally has a corps group to be able to give the starters needed rest without significant drop. Now the only question is will Ford reach all the way into his bench or just to the first few players like the last few years.
As far as this next year's season will go, it's still all a mystery. Travis Ford has shown his ability to get a team to have enough to make the tournament but not much beyond that. Maybe he can use this new array of tools to his advantage or maybe he'll fall back into his old habits of going small and not utilizing the bench to its capacity. Looks like we'll just have to wait and see.