October 28, 2015

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Phil Forte is one of the most accomplished guards in Oklahoma State history.

He says he's not even the best guard on the team.

That honor, he believes, goes to Jawun Evans. The freshman from Dallas was a McDonald's All-American last year, and he has been turning heads in practice since Day One. When asked why Evans is the best player on the team, Forte smiled and said, ''You'll see.''

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said Evans rarely makes typical freshman mistakes. The 6-foot pass-first point guard won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the FIBA U19 World Championships.

''Jawun Evans does a lot of things you can't teach,'' Ford said. ''His understanding, feel and way he sees the game of basketball is special. It's not something you see on many basketball courts at any level. He is one of the most unselfish players I've been around.''

Ford said it's perfect that a hard-working, self-made player like Forte is paired up with a naturally gifted athlete like Evans.

''It's terrific because you have the ultimate in work ethic who has made himself into the player he is, and then you have someone who is blessed, still works hard, but has great God-given ability,'' Ford said. ''If any indication of what we've seen in practice, those two together are going to be fun to watch.''

Here are some things to watch from the Cowboys this season:

WHO WILL SCORE: Last year's leading scorer, Le'Bryan Nash, is playing overseas, and No. 2 scorer Anthony Hickey and No. 4 scorer Michael Cobbins also have moved on. Forte will get a ton of attention as the top returning option. He averaged 15 points last season and made 70 3-pointers. Jeff Newberry will be expected to score more after averaging 7.9 points in conference play last season. Ford said the team seeks more balance this season and funneled too much of its offense through Nash and Forte last year.

PRESEASON PROJECTION: The coaches picked the Cowboys to finish seventh in the 10-team Big 12.

''Well I feel like we always have a chip on our shoulder,'' Newberry said. ''It's just a number by a name to me personally. They could have picked us one through six but we are seven. Obviously, it gives you more motivation going into the season, and it makes you come into practice and work a little harder. We want to prove everybody else wrong.''

INTERIOR GAME: Cobbins was one of the best defensive players in the Big 12 last year, and his absence leaves a huge void. Nash was an athletic scoring threat in the post. Chris Olivier is an all-conference transfer from Eastern Illinois. Anthony Allen and Mitchell Solomon provided solid minutes last year, and Igor Ibaka should contribute once he's back in shape. Solomon will have a much bigger role than the spot minutes he got last year.

HAMMONDS EVOLVES: Leyton Hammonds was a spot shooter last year - 48 of his 69 shots were threes - but with offseason work, he's adjusted into a versatile swingman. He averaged just 2.3 points per game last season and started just twice, but Ford said he was No. 1 on the team on his cumulative grading system through practices.

ANOTHER IBAKA: Ibaka is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka's not-so-little brother. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior college transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M sat out last year and had minor knee surgery in August, so he isn't in game shape. Ford said he expects Ibaka to eventually be a very good player, but said it will take time.

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Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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