STILLWATER -- Monday afternoon was our first real look at Cowboy basketball now that they're into the swing of full practices leading up to the start of the season against Rogers State on Nov. 1, and the official start to the season on Nov. 6 against ORU.
Mike Boynton and Co. are starting this season with seven new players, six freshmen that include Avery Anderson III, Chris Harris Jr., Marcus Watson, Keylan and Kalib Boone and Hidde Roessink, one grad transfer in Jonathan Laurent.
It's a talented combination of high-level players that should compliment the talented group of returning seniors in Thomas Dziagwa, Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters III.
"So far I feel really good," Mike Boynton said about practice. "I've told our team everyday that we're able to put together another really good practice, it's an opportunity to separate ourselves from the pack. What you find is Sept. 24 when everybody started practice, there was roughly 320 teams that had really good practices. The other 35 have no chance already, but everyday that you go along, there are less teams having really good practices. So, one of our goals is to be consistently one of those teams that as we go through the year, has really good practices that we think could translate to some success."
For Boynton and Co., the biggest challenge they face is trying to make sure that everybody is on the same page come that first week of games. So far, it seems like that hasn't been an issue, but there's steps that are still being taken.
"They're starting to understand the language we talk," Boynton said of the freshman. "They're starting to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their teammates. For most of our freshmen, they were the best player on every team they've ever played on until now. Not that they're not one of the best, but there are other really good players out there that can help them have success. So, striking that balance between trying to feel like they should make all the plays with the fact that there are times they still need to be aggressive. Now, the next part is them speaking our language, cause they don't do that yet. They understand it, they've heard it enough, but they don't yet speak our language. So, that's the next step for them."
We also got to speak with sophomore point guard Isaac Likekele. Likekele is fresh off a trip to Greece with USA Basketball's U19 team that won the FIBA World Cup Gold Medal.
With one year under his belt, including a gold medal performance with Team USA, there's no doubt that he's matured from last season.
"It just feels much slower to me," said Likekele. "The game, playing, practicing, executing different things. It all seems much slower to me and makes more sense to me to where I'm not having to be taught as much, I'm just performing in practice."
A couple of other notes worth mentioning from today's practice was that the media availability was scheduled for 2 p.m. while the practice itself was slated to start until roughly 2:45. Well, I decided to get there about 1:40 and senior captain Cameron McGriff was already on the court working on moves and his jumper off a screens and had already worked up a pretty decent sweat. On the other end was other senior captain Thomas Dziagwa who was also working on his jumper and not too long after that, the third senior captain Lindy Waters made his way out onto the court as well.
These guys are beyond dedicated to make sure that this is best season Cowboy basketball has had in a very long time.