Editorial: When Should Boynton Say When on Seniors?
STILLWATER -- The words in the Oklahoma State alma mater are "loyal and true." How does that work in sports particularly? Oklahoma State basketball head coach Mike Boynton is on the verge of having to make some hard decisions and how does the sentiment of that song fit his situation? Well, first check the words.
Proud and immortal
Bright Shines Your Name
We Herald Your Fame
Ever You'll Find Us
Loyal and True
To Our Alma Mater
O - S - U
The lyrics say "loyal and true" to the school, so that could get Boynton off the hook. Boynton has been loyal and true to his three seniors in Lindy Waters III, Thomas Dziagwa, and Cameron McGriff. That trio has been with Boynton from the beginning.
They were freshmen when Boynton was an assistant to Brad Underwood, who coached with his veins sticking out in his neck and his verbiage on the borderline or often over. Underwood preached defense first, hustle was non-negotiable, and offense was great when it came together.
When Underwood got a team that also started 0-6 in Big 12 play into the NCAA Tournament, but failed to hear the figures he was looking for in a new contract and was gone the day after OSU was ousted by Michigan in the NCAA Tournament and on his way to Illinois as their new head coach. The remaining players, including sophomores to be in Waters, Dziagwa and McGriff, were among the backers of Boynton being elevated to head coach. Athletic director Mike Holder listened and acted.
The next season that trio as sophomores helped Oklahoma State beat Kansas twice in the regular season, helped the Cowboys rally to within a slot or two of the NCAA Tournament and to a nice run in the NIT.
Last season with disaster all around in more players being booted off the squad than remained from the start of practice in October, it was Waters, Dziagwa, and McGriff that kept the Pokes competitive and sometimes in heroic fashion.
This season with Isaac Likekele back at point guard, shot blocking rim protector Yor Anei back, and a talented class of freshmen along with an experienced graduate transfer; the thought was this team could be pretty good.
Away from the court, Boynton has proven to be a tireless mega-recruiter as a head coach. He played the lead in most of the recruiting of Avery Anderson III, Chris Harris, and the departed Marcus Watson. He was working with Scott Sutton in getting the Boone twins out of Tulsa Memorial, and helped finish with a Euro-connected player to John Cooper in Hidde Roessink.
Then took the chance and hired former SMU player and assistant coach wannabe Cannen Cunningham. A very smart move that helped land the Cowboys the number two recruit in the nation and newly named McDonald's All-American in Cade Cunningham. The work now, work later, and work some more recruiting of Boynton has also landed Putnam City West hotshot Rondel Walker, and another promising forward in Montreal Pena out of Texas.
If you watched Cunningham on ESPN last Sunday night as his Eagles beat IMG 76-64, you realize how good he is. Montverde is 19-0 and has played as tough a national schedule as you can in high school basketball. Cunningham is averaging close to 20 points a game this season and is a creative passer that is now the eighth Oklahoma State signee to become a McDonald's All-American.
The question that begs is at what point does Boynton start playing his younger players more and the senior trio of Waters, Dziagwa, and McGriff less?
The best team in college basketball, the best teams in the Big 12 have at least two alpha dogs, players that can play with anybody.
Baylor has three in Jared Butler, Freddie Gillespie, and MaCio Teague. West Virginia has the inside duo of Derek Culver and talented freshman Oscar Tshiebwe with guard Miles McBride. Kansas has Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike. Heck, Oklahoma has Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek.
The Cowboys only have one, Isaac Likekele, and while he is an alpha dog, he is more of a complimentary alpha dog that excels in assisting the offense and being a stopper on defense.
Waters is by far the best of the seniors, but not a guy that can come out and beat a Big 12 opponent by himself. The loyalty of the seniors has been awesome and that makes it tough. The ceremony after the N7 Game vs. Yale and the presentations made by Waters and his family were what Oklahoma State culture is all about.
Then during the non conference, the Cowboys were hitting on all cylinders, mainly in Brooklyn. But Big 12 teams know you like that busy body neighbor down the street, so they know how to get under your skin and more precise, they know how to beat you.
I argued about this with my compadre on the radio the other day, Tom Dirato, and I appreciate Tom's viewpoint, it is never say nigh, never quit when there is a chance. At this point, I don't see a rally like in Underwood's one and only season in Stillwater. I'm not saying to bench the seniors and throw away the key. Heck, you can still start all of them or some of them, but you saw Avery Anderson III play early and play through some tough situations and now he is the closest freshman to alpha dog status. Kalib Boone has shown glimpses and so has his explosive twin Keylan. Chris Harris is needing to play and build up some more experience and confidence.
These things need to happen. The further this season goes and if losses continue and it appears there will be more, then minutes become important for the pups. It is becoming quite clear that the seniors aren't alpha dogs. That means Boynton and the program needs to speed up the process and find out how many of those freshmen on the roster have the ability to grow into one. It's okay, it's being "loyal and true" to OSU.