STILLWATER — With the wound of an NCAA Tournament ban still fresh, the Cowboys took to Eddie Sutton Court on Friday night.
Oklahoma State defeated UCO 76-68 in Gallagher-Iba Arena in exhibition play. After the game, OSU coach Mike Boynton talked on the fallout of the NCAA decision and the game itself.
“First thing I’m going to do is I’m going to complement two groups of people. One is our players. Obviously, this isn’t a new story in the sense of overall, but it was a difficult moment to have to deal with unexpectedly, really. We didn’t have a warning or anything like that. We got a day’s notice that this is coming out. Wednesday after my press conference, I guess, we had our best practice that we’ve had all year. And I was really concerned — I told you guys that I hadn’t seen them. For them to come out with the energy and the focus and the resilient attitude that they did really shows a lot of their character. So, I’m really proud of them.
“I’m also very thankful for our fans. We built this team up quite a bit also. I probably lead the charge in that. I’m a pretty positive person and I know the work that our staff has put in the last four years to get to the point I feel like we have a really, really competitive team, nationally competitive. I think the news took some wind out of the sails of our fans as well, but I also think that it motivated them to rally behind these kids. I feel the response has been overwhelmingly positive, certainly from our fans but also from people outside, even some of the people down south, to be perfectly honest. One of the people — and I don’t like to name-drop at all, but I think it’s important to know — Joe Castiglione actually sent me a text message. I think he actually tried to call me, but I didn’t have his number, so I didn’t answer. He sent me a text message just offering support. He didn’t take a stance one way or another, but I think he respects the way we try to run our program. And obviously we’re rivals, we’re competitors but I do believe that Joe Castiglione is in it for the kids. I do believe that, so I wanted to thank him publicly for reaching out. He wasn’t the only one; there were several people, but I don’t want to go through a whole list of people.
“With that being said, obviously we came out and played a game tonight. We showed some jitters. I wanted to play against a team that I knew would be well prepared and well coached. I had a ton of respect for Coach Hoffman. So, it was the right kind of game for us tonight.”
On what it meant to have the players do postgame together
“I think it shows what kind of kids we have that they would want to do something like that together and not just leave one of their teammates out to answer for everything. So, I’m proud of them. That was a mature thing for them to do. I think it’s important, especially in this day and age, that we hear what the kids have to say, what they feel. We make a lot of decisions for them and oftentimes we don’t consider what they may be thinking or how they may be feeling it. We tend to as adults hope they just listen to us. Really, we need to listen to them sometimes. We need to give them space to express how they feel. That’s really part of the healing process in a situation like this.”
On the importance of each Big 12 game this year
It’s unique. In some ways, I don’t know if I’ve really processed the big picture that way yet. I’m still pretty much a day-to-day guy. I probably need to grow a little bit myself in that area, think more macro with my time. Certainly, I think it’s a realistic goal. It’s not easy. I still think it’s the most competitive league in the country. We’re picked sixth. People say top fifth. I see sixth. We’re going to have to beat some really good people to accomplish that goal.
On players playing with chips on their shoulders
“I think that was definitely the vibe I got from them. It was a healthy kind of chip, too. I’m still pissed off, I’ll be honest. I’m hurting for those kids. It’s not really truly about me. I didn’t get into coaching for me. I don’t know if I’ll coach long enough to get in anybody’s hall of fame. That is of no significance or consequence to me. I really got into this to help kids see themselves become more than ever imagined. And that’s what’s frustrating to me, because I think that’s why we all get into this profession.
“I don’t know if you guys know this. But the same day, Wednesday, that our ruling came out, there was this article published about James Madison University. You guys may be aware. There are two quotes in there that may be pertinent, both of which I agree with.
“First one is, ‘It’s hard being a college student right now with COVID and isolation and all the challenges they have to endure. For them to bring on more anxiety, more stress, more problems, it just seems tone deaf.’ That was from their basketball coach, who I know. We actually kind of came up in this profession together. He was at College of Charleston when I was at South Carolina and then he became head coach at Georgia Southern, and I think he’s 100% right.
“The other one is a little bit more troubling, but I agree with it also, and it says, ‘In an era when the industry of college athletics stresses student-athlete welfare, this decision is completely contrary to those ideals.’ And I 1,000% agree with that, too. I think the student-athletes at James Madison deserve better from leadership. I think they should go to their leaders on campus and ask how do we get this right, what do we do better? Maybe our athletes can go with them. I think the person that was speaking on that second quote may have some information about how those decisions were made. If the importance of student-athlete welfare is of significance at James Madison, I think it should be at Oklahoma State as well, because I want to see all student-athletes have a fair opportunity to have success. So, I don’t disagree with either one of those statements. I think the student-athletes at James Madison deserve but I think the student-athletes at Oklahoma State deserve much better also.”
On if there has been a response to him calling out NCAA officials by name
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard from any of them. I don’t expect to hear from any of them. Accountability is a big deal to me. And if they feel strongly that their decision was the right one, I think they should be able to stand up and say that they do feel that way and maybe answer why.”
On what it meant seeing 8,000+ fans turn out for an exhibition game
“It meant everything to me, and I hope our players understand how unique that is. I probably can go back and find the actual numbers, but I would guess it probably doubled any exhibition attendance we’ve had since I’ve been here. I can’t speak to anything prior. I went to bed on Wednesday, after not sleeping Tuesday night, pretty late, and I was pretty beat up, to be honest. And I woke up, and I just told our fans this, I woke up on Thursday morning excited because I know the type of people that support this program. So I’m not surprised, although it’s not usual. I’m not surprised because I’ve been here long enough to see this community and this fanbase rally around its teams and offer support in really, really difficult moments, and tonight was another example.”
On the game
“It was good. We did some good things. Sloppy exhibition basketball, right? Nervous. Tyreek (Smith) has been sensational in practice, probably borderline starter kind of play in practice, and I think he was as nervous as he’s ever been. I don’t know if it was just playing and being out there in front of fans again. It’s a different deal. Thought Bryce (Thompson) was his aggressive, confident self. We didn’t see much of that, I don’t think, last year from him. So, that was a positive. Thought Avery (Anderson) did some good things. I think we’ve talked about Moussa’s presence defensively. I think that showed up. The block shots, obviously, but there are several times where a guy is just not shooting the ball in there. Almost just as effective as blocking a shot is making him think about whether he wants to shoot a ball at one foot from the basket. We had some guys do some good things, but we got a long way to go if we want to accomplish the things that they say they want to accomplish.”
On if the starting five from Friday night is the plan moving forward
“I don’t know. I would say, currently, with the guys available we have seven starters. MA (Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe) and BT (Bryce Thompson) are probably six, seven. But it’s early. It’s hard to say. I would imagine with this group, we talked about not having a ton of separation. For us things are based on practice. I don’t make promises. Nobody’s guaranteed to start today or Tuesday. It’s how well do they prepare Sunday and Monday to get ready. The guys that are prepared the best, that I think put us in position to have success, they go out there for the jump ball. It’s not that big a deal to me who starts, but I do want to reward hard work. We’ll see how that goes Sunday, Monday.
On Donovan Williams starting
“Yeah, and I’ve had this conversation with Donovan (Williams), probably this summer. He had a lot of work to do to get in the rotation. There was some things you didn’t know about the guys coming in, but I know he couldn’t do what Moussa (Cisse) does, right? So, that’s not really a deal, right? But we have a lot of guys in our back court and he’s gonna play that position, or he’s going to find a way to play the four some for us to find a way onto the floor. He’s just been a much better listener. He’s shown some humility. I think I mentioned this with some of the radio guys earlier today, Donovan Williams walked onto this campus last July, and he knew that Cade (Cunningham) was going to be the No. 1 pick and he believed he was going to be the No. 2 pick. That’s where he was last July. And then it didn’t go well. It didn’t go close to that well, and then injury, and then question of, ‘Is he good enough?’ You know, the psychological warfare that I’m sure he went through last year really affected him. We talked about his struggle mentally. He’s been in a much better place, understanding his role for our team and how to have success and how to get on the court. I think he’s embraced just being a junkyard dog type. He had a couple big offensive rebounds for us early. He played with great energy, so I hope that continues.”
On playing against Central Oklahoma’s 1-3-1 defense
“Yeah, and you know, that’s part of it. I’m never here to make excuses, but it’s good for us. We’ve got some film, we’ll see how — I would imagine we’ll see it in a couple more games. Tonight’s game was on ESPN+. I would imagine (they) got the film. Maybe they feel like that was a good strategy for them as well. We got some film, we can go back and start trying to get better on offense starting on Sunday.”
On Rondel Walker’s takedown on the jump ball
“It was big time. I think I need to keep coach (John) Smith away from him. I don’t know if there’s a weight class for a guy 150 pounds … I don’t think he wants to wrestle anyway.”
On getting on Woody Newton after his missed dunk attempt
“So, I’m always bothered when guys try things in a game, like they’re trying for the first time. And, we’ve practiced 26 times, and I don’t think Woody (Newton) has dunked in practice. He can dunk obviously, he’s 6-9. But the dunk he tried to do tonight — so, not only does he try to do a dunk that he’s never attempted, and I don’t think he could ever make that dunk. Not yet anyway, he needs a lot more work with our strength and conditioning coach. But, we went down the court on the other end and Moussa (Cisse) blocked a shot for him, saved his butt, and he was the last one down the court. And that’s just unacceptable, so he needed to hear what the expectation — that’s part of it, right? He needs to understand what’s expected, what’s accepted and what’s rewarded and that type of play isn’t any of that.”
On update regarding Chris Harris and Kalib Boone
“Kalib (Boone) is probably still 10 days away from, I would imagine, I would think. I try not to project that stuff, but that’s kind of what the plan has been. He just started practicing again. He needs to get some reps, get some wind under him. Chris (Harris) is a little bit closer in terms of availability, but he’s still not quite ready for live competition. He hasn’t done any of our — and he didn’t play our scrimmage, versus Missouri. He’s not done a ton live yet. He’s really still getting the confidence in his knee right now.”
On Bryce Williams’ suspension
“Yeah, so Bryce Williams, obviously we know his situation in terms of the legal side. He had some things he had to fulfill before he was eligible to play. We just have reached that moment yet. So he’s out right now.
“… I don’t know. You know, as soon as he’s available, we’ll let you know. I mean, I wouldn’t imagine it’ll be that much longer, but he still got a couple of things he’s got to get knocked off before he’s available again.”
On Moussa Cisse free-throw shooting
“Yeah, it was much better than 30%, right? And he’s not a bad — I mean, if you watch basketball, he’s got a good looking stroke. I think part of it is inconsistent reps. I think he played with a little pressure last year and pressure’s never good, right, on the court. So, I think he’ll shoot better. And obviously he’s gonna get fouled a lot. It’s just the nature of where he plays and how he plays and, you know, if teams start thinking he’s a 70-75 percent free-throw shooter, then maybe they’ll think twice about it.”
On expectations of Bryce Thompson
“I feel comfortable saying this, because I’ve had this conversation with him and his family: he’s not Cade (Cunningham). So, let’s make clear of that. Like that dude, obviously he struggled a little bit out the gate in the NBA, but he’s also guarded by Giannis (Antetokounmpo) for like 35 minutes the other night. I think I would struggle on my best day, alright? But, Bryce (Thompson) is going to be really, really good for us. And, you know, I think the way we play is going to help him. I’m going to continue to instill confidence in his ability, the reason we recruited him, and I really, really enjoyed coaching that kid. Again, expectations, I can’t control that. I think people thought Cade was going to get 50 every night last year.”
On Cade Cunningham bullying Kevin Durant
“Did he? He was excited about that matchup. He thought he was excited about the Giannis (Antetokounmpo) matchup and then I talked to him afterwards. I think they’re all learning that that dude’s different than even the different ones.”
“It’s hard to, I mean, it’s hard to just come, jump in. Giannis the other night, then Tyrese Maxwell, who he knows, but he’s got some experience in the league and then [Kevin Durant] and (James) Harden, but this is what he’s built for. He’s gonna do fine. The kid’s still going to wind up being a really, really good player. I think he’ll be a multiple time All-Star. No question.”
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