Winning Starts With Isaac Likekele
STILLWATER -- When Mike Boynton signed his first recruiting class back in 2018, there was definitely some concern about the future of the program. Mike Holder had hired an unknown guy as the new Head Coach for Oklahoma State basketball, and that guy had a shortened recruiting cycle with the coaching transition.
In Boynton's first signing class, he signed Yor Anei. Fast forward to the late signing period and he brought in Isaac Likekele. While Likekele was ranked inside the top-250 in the country, his offers didn't exactly excite fans and when coach Boynton compared his playing style to Marcus Smart, there was some more eye rolling.
Just two years later, Isaac Likekele started 29 of 32 games his freshman season while averaging 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Following the season, he was selected as a member of the USA FIBA U19 team and helped lead them to a gold medal.
Now, just seven games in to his sophomore season, he's one of the best point guards in the country averaging 13.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.9 steals per game, a steals number that puts him in the top-10 in the country.
“He is probably a great example of a guy who’s completely bought into it’s about winning; it’s about putting our team in a position to have success," said coach Boynton. "I don’t know who our best player is, right? It’s arguable at minimum. We have leaders, we have older guys, we have some young talented guys, but I think we have a bunch guys who are bought into from an individual standpoint doing whatever the team needs to win. He does that because he can do so many of those things. It looks different for him from night to night. Some nights it is scoring. Some nights it’s being a lockdown defender. I thought his defense was tremendous in both games [in Brooklyn]. That’s where it’s gotta start for us, for him because his energy, his size at his position can really be imposing for other team’s point guards. I’m certainly glad I’m not trying to prepare to play against him because you maybe look at his game and, ‘Eh, I don’t know what he does well,’ then you gotta compete against him and he’s a pitbull.”
In the Pokes two wins in Brooklyn over Syracuse and Ole Miss, he had two vastly different performances.
Against Syracuse, he set personal season highs in points (26), minutes (35), field goals made (8), field goal attempts (11), 3-point field goals made (1), free throws made (9), free throw attempts (10), assists (8) and steals (5).
Against Ole Miss, it was more of a defensive effort as he finished the game nine points on 3-of-7 shooting, and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. He also brought down six defensive rebounds, and four assists and three steals. He was also one of the main factors in holding Ole Miss to one of their lowest point totals in school history.
"I don't really try to pride myself on just points," said Likekele. "Me and my versatility and the way my game is, my team might need different things from me every night. So, the [game against Syracuse], we had a couple of guys not going offensively, so I had to pick up the scoring. The second game, we had everybody clicking on all cylinders, so we didn't need as much scoring from me."
Tonight against a rather depleted Georgetown team, Oklahoma State is going to attempt to do something they haven't done since the 2006-07 season, the first of the Sean Sutton era: start the season 8-0. Isaac Likekele has played a huge role in the first seven games, and he'll be playing a huge role in the rest of the non-conference slate as well.