Yesterday, the Cowboys held an open practice so fans could come and get an early look at the team before the first exhibition game next weekend. I was there yesterday and had some stuff that caught my eye.
The Youth Is Good
The freshman that have come in have some pretty impressive potential. There obviously is still a learning curve between high school and Division 1 basketball, but for some of those guys that gap is not that large. The guys that impressed me the most were Maurice Calloo and Issac Likelele. Calloo is every bit of 6’9 230, he can play down low with his size, but also step out, stretch the floor, and shoot from outside. He’s going to be a major bright spot on this team and make an impact early. Likelele is going to be a great defensive guard, I can see why people have compared him to guys like Tony Allen and Marcus Smart, he fits that mold of Oklahoma State basketball. He also has great ability on the offensive end to get to the rim, and he has a better outside game than I gave him credit for initially. His outside shot looks like it’s still developing some but he is a threat beyond the arc.
Duncan Demuth surprised me a lot as well, he’s still somewhat undersized at 6’8, but he can most likely play a 3 or small 4 in this offense. Despite being skinnier than the rest of the bigs, he was able to take contact in post up drills and still make the shot. Kentrevious Jones is a guy that will play some big minutes this year, his size will be a big factor off the bench for this team. He is another guy like Calloo that can stretch the floor a little bit, he can step out and make a 15 footer, kind of like what Mitchell Solomon was able to do in his last couple of years for the Pokes. The only guy I don’t see getting a lot of playing time yet is Yor Anei, he is fairly undersized at 6’10. He could spell guys at the end of a half but I don’t see big minutes from him quite yet.
Cameron McGriff, Lindy Waters III, and Thomas Dziagwa are the clear leaders on the floor on this team. Mike Cunningham, a graduate transfer from USC-Upstate adds some more experience and leadership to this team as well. With so many young players on this team, there needs to be that leadership among the players so that the coaches don’t have to do too much in game. From what I observed, Thomas Dziagwa was the most vocal guy on the floor the whole practice. He looks like he’s really embraced that leadership role, and it shows on the floor in his play as well, he definitely has taken a step forward as a player. Lindy Waters III and McGriff led more by example, they were still vocal on the defensive end, but he worked his tail off all practice and that sort of mentality is infectious.
Curtis Jones...my goodness
Okay so I’ll admit I did not know a lot about the Indiana transfer before I walked into practice to watch, but that guy can BALL. He’s a threat from the 3-point line, and he can drive and finish at the rim, and dunk like McGriff. When he is eligible to play at the end of this semester, his impact will be felt immediately. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he makes this lineup that much deeper. Y’all are going to like him, Cowboy fans.
Mike Boynton: A man of the people
At the end of practice, Coach Boynton had students come out and shoot free throws or a 3-pointer to win an autographed basketball or tickets to a future game. The only catch was, if they missed, the team had to run. It put a little pressure on the people coming out and in jeans and tennis shoes, but most of them came through for the team.
I wish I could buy more stock in Coach Boynton, but I’d go broke if I did. He’s building something special here, and I can’t wait to see what this season and beyond have to offer.
Potential Starting Five
After watching an hour of one practice as a casual observer, I have a prediction for who will be the starters to begin the season. I’m going to go with the starters being Mike Cunningham, Lindy Waters III, Thomas Dziagwa, Cam McGriff, and Maurice Calloo. This lineup provides length, and the ability to play inside and out, while still having a pretty deep bench.