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Oklahoma State Cowboys (Last Year: 24-9, 13-5 in Big XII)
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
F/C: Michael Cobbins (Jr)/Marek Soucek (Jr)/Gary Gaskins (Jr)
F: Kamari Murphy (Soph)/Leyton Hammonds (Fr)
SF: Le’Bryan Nash (Jr)/Brian Williams (Jr)/Jeff Carroll (Fr)
SG: Markel Brown (Sr)/Phil Forte (Soph)
PG: Marcus Smart (Soph)/Stevie Clark (Fr)
Gone: C-Phillip Jurick, G/F-J.P. Olukemi, PG-Kirby Gardner (transfer-Fresno State)
Marcus Smart’s somewhat surprising decision to return for his sophomore season set off a celebration in Stillwater. Smart staying meant the Oklahoma State Cowboys would figure to be one of the top teams in the country since they return their top six scorers from a year ago.
Smart’s contributions during his freshman year cannot be appropriately expressed just by looking at his numbers, though those were sure as heck impressive: 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and three steals per game. His intense demeanor on the floor, desire to win, and leadership became infectious throughout the program. He certainly would have been one of the top picks in the 2013 NBA Draft had he declared and should be a National Player of the Year candidate when this season comes to an end.
Another key reason for Oklahoma State’s success last season was the improved play of combo guard Markel Brown, who reaped the benefits of playing alongside Smart. Brown is more of a perimeter threat than Smart but is also capable of running the point, which he probably won’t have to do as much this season due to the addition of freshman Stevie Clark. Clark is a true creator who adds depth at guard, along with three-point specialist Phil Forte. An undersized two guard, Forte averaged more than 10 points per game last year as the Cowboys’ sixth man.
Le’Bryan Nash is another integral piece to Oklahoma State’s puzzle. The physical and crazy athletic forward provides versatility for Travis Ford since he can play either forward position. Nash hasn’t shown much progression with his outside shooting, but he is still a terrific third scoring option for the Cowboys. Brian Williams, who missed the first half of last season due to a wrist injury, adds depth on the wing with freshmen Leyton Hammonds and Jeffrey Carroll also competing for reserve minutes.
Kamari Murphy figures to start alongside Nash at forward with Michael Cobbins sliding over to the center spot to fill the void left behind by Phillip Jurick. There isn’t a whole lot of physicality between Cobbins and Murphy, so rebounding will be a concern. Marek Soucek is a true seven-footer who needs to throw his body around inside, while JUCO transfer Gary Gaskins is a long, athletic shot-blocker who could see spot minutes as well.
Expect the Oklahoma State Cowboys to once again compete with the Kansas Jayhawks for the Big XII Championship. It is hard to bet against the Jayhawks since they have won at least a share of the last nine conference crowns, but if ever there was a year to end that streak, this could be it as Smart and the Cowboys could have the talent it takes to dethrone Kansas and make a deep run in March.
Player to Watch: Marcus Smart, PG
Obviously. Every coach would love to have a competitor like Smart leading the charge. Expectations are astronomical for the sophomore, but he should be an All-American and perhaps the most dynamic all-around player in college hoops.
Key Non-Conference Games:
Predicted Big XII Finish: 2nd
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