Oklahoma State Nash ready to shine
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Le'Bryan Nash shared the spotlight with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown the past two years at Oklahoma State.
Not anymore. Smart and Brown are in the NBA, and Nash enters his senior season as the top returning scorer for the Cowboys. Nash averaged 13.9 points per game and exploded for 20 or more seven times on his way to being a third-team All-Big 12 selection by the coaches.
Nash is ready to carry more of the offensive load. The forward lost 10 pounds in the offseason to prepare for his expanded role.
''I feel like my game, when I'm quicker - I feel like I'm unstoppable,'' Nash said.
Big things were expected of Nash coming out of Lincoln High School in Dallas. Many experts expected him to leave school after one year. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said he is better off for not leaving early, and now, he has the talent and the basketball smarts to have a special year.
''He needs to take everything he's learned these past three years - good, bad whatever it be - and learn from it to make this his best year ever,'' Ford said. ''Not even close. We'll see.''
Nash played power forward last year, but this season, the Cowboys will move him away from the basket more and have him play some small forward.
''Coach Ford trusts me more and more on the perimeter,'' he said. ''I'm just getting my jump shot right and my ballhandling right, and just being an all-attacking player. Just being the best scorer I can be, the best player I can be, the best teammate I can be. I feel like if I can do all that, there's a chance of my team winning.''
Nash shot 52 percent from the field last season. Ford said he expects that percentage to drop a bit because he'll be shooting different types of shots and he will draw more attention from defenses now that Smart and Brown are gone. Ford still expects Nash to be efficient because of the knowledge he's gained.
''Part of his improvement, from his freshman year to now, is his maturity level,'' Ford said. ''He understands his strengths. He understands where he can score.''
Nash said he looks forward to playing with Anthony Hickey, a transfer from LSU. Hickey, a pass-first point guard, started 31 of 34 games last season and averaged 8.4 points and 3.7 assists per game for the Tigers.
''He's just trying to be the best point guard he can be,'' Nash said. ''He's a guy that gets his teammates the ball. A guy that can penetrate the lane anytime he wants to and just dish it off to a guy, perfect pass. That's what you need out of your point guard. I feel he's a guy who can help us out a lot.''
Nash said the team isn't worried about the coaches picking the Cowboys to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the Big 12.
''We know we're talented, we know we're good, and that's all we need,'' he said.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .