Cowboy Basketball Notebook: Freshmen Guards Are Progressing in Absence of Likekele
STILLWATER -- It's been a tough road to hoe the past few games for Oklahoma State without starting point guard Isaac Likekele. After starting the season 7-0, the Cowboys have dropped the past two games, 81-74 to Georgetown, and 80-61 to Wichita State, both of which were home games.
While it's been tough without Likekele, and probably will for a few more weeks, it's been beneficial for freshmen guards like Avery Anderson and Chris Harris.
“These are really hard things to go through, but I think long term…I think part of the reason Ice [Likekele] and Yor [Anei] have been able to be as good as they’ve been at times this year is because of what they had to go through last year,” said head coach Mike Boynton. “I think we’ll see the same thing happen with the young guys where it’s just trial by fire. I could put a schedule together that couple probably mask any of our deficiencies, but that’s not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in us being our best once the calendar turns and we’re playing those games twice a week for two and a half months. You go through these things and yeah, I think both Chris [Harris] and Avery [Anderson] are making progress. It’s hard for them to see the progress sometimes because we’re not winning or because their numbers don’t look great, but they’re certainly getting better.”
To start the season, Anderson saw some significant minutes against Kansas City (20) and Western Michigan (16), but they were games in which Likekele was available and playing good minutes.
Same with Harris, he played decent minutes to start the year, but nothing more than when he saw 18 minutes against Syracuse.
In the past two games, Harris has started at point guard and has played a combined 53 minutes in those two games. That's a number that took him the first four games to hit.
Not only are the two-straight losses going to help the young guys in the long run, but it's the whole of the non-conference that's going to help them come February.
“I don’t think there’s any better way to prepare them,” said coach Boynton. “I’ve done both as a player; I think my senior season [at South Carolina], we might’ve started like 9-1. We didn’t really play a tough schedule and we got in to league [play] and I think we finished .500 and we just kind of barely squeezed into the tournament late because of that non-conference. I don’t want to give these guys A.) false confidence, or put them at a disadvantage coming to the end of the year where it’s time to show what we’re capable of.”
As for the return of Likekele, who's missed the last two games due to an unknown illness, it's still uncertain as to when he'll be back.
“He’s better,” coach Boynton said of Isaac Likekele. “He’s making progress. He probably still isn’t available yet. I hate to get ahead of myself, but I want to be honest; I don’t anticipate him playing. He’s doing better. He hasn’t practiced, but he’s been around the past couple of days, which is progress from the four or five days prior to that where he was kind of sequestered for a little while. So, we’ll see. As he continues to make progress, we’ll give him a chance to get back in shape and get back to practice.”
There was some speculation that he might be back in time for Houston, but that's looking like it's not going to happen, which is unfortunate. Houston is a great team. They're a strong rebounding team, which has been a weak spot for the Pokes the past few week.
“[Houston’s] really good,” said coach Boynton. “They’re particularly good as it relates to rebounding, which is a concern. I think they’re fourth in the country, no I take that back, they’re second in the country in offense rebound percentage. Obviously, that’s important because we’ve had some struggles on the glass and we were outrebounded by Wichita State who was 55 [in the country] maybe. So, [rebounding] has been a point of emphasis for us this week.”