STILLWATER — The Cowboys are about a week and a half into their 2021-22 practices, and things are starting to come along.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton met with reporters following Thursday’s practice. Here is what he had to say.
“We’re actually working on a pretty cool homecoming weekend event that we think is going to be pretty special here on campus. Friday night of homecoming will be a pretty cool opportunity for our fans to see our program out on campus. It won’t be here in the arena, but the details are still coming together on it so hopefully you guys will be hearing some more about it over the next couple days, maybe next week early.”
On if he could give any teasers about the event
“Not yet. I mean, we have to have information to have teasers, so all I’ve got is a date. But I think it’s gonna be a pretty cool concept to try and integrate ourselves with homecoming and be a part of the campus atmosphere that’s already existed.”
On why they decided to do something different for homecoming this year
“I really don’t know. I think this started, maybe a couple of years back with more of the students. I think for years, and obviously I’ve only been here a short amount of time, but it’s been like a mandatory come over to GIA thing. For you guys that went to school here, I guess that was a thing, and it kind of lost some of its allure, kind of, maybe. And so I think the student body was looking maybe to try and do something different with their portion of all-night pomp, or the pep rally or whatever it is. So when I heard that they were not thinking about using GIA, I wanted to make sure that we were still a part of it because again, we’re just a part of this campus just like all the other students, and we want to make sure that the basketball program had an opportunity to take part in whatever was going on.”
On if the team will press more this season
“I think so. It’s early. You know, this team will evolve into whatever it’s going to be at some point, probably in early January, so we’re a ways away from that. But I think the depth and athleticism we have may be best served by trying to create tempo and help me give me an opportunity to use the depth that we have. Again, I said it the last time I was in, 200 minutes is a pretty challenging task in front of me. Got to try to create as many opportunities for guys as possible.”
On the Big 12 adding Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF
“I think it’s pretty cool. I think my job got harder, to be perfectly honest. I enjoy that challenge though. Obviously I have a lot of respect for all four schools who have been invited and have accepted those invites. I watched Cincinnati basketball for a long time, kind of transitioned away from a lot of conferences in my lifetime. I certainly remember when Coach (Bob) Huggins was there, and the success that he had kind of created an identity for that program which is, you know, credit to him, it’s kind of stayed with them since. That kind of tough, high level of success, recruit guys who really want to work hard.
“What Coach (Kelvin) Sampson has done at the University of Houston is nothing short of phenomenal, really. I was working at Stephen F. Austin not too long ago, and we had a better basketball program than the University of Houston did. It just is what it is, and that’s not the case anymore. And it has a lot to do with his commitment, and then their commitment to investing in that program, but he’s recruited really well, went to the Final Four a year ago, is one of the all-time great coaches in our game.
“And Central Florida’s had some success, not as consistent as the other programs. I’ve never been to BYU, but I’ve seen the environment at their basketball games. So, I’m not necessarily looking forward to it, but I know that it’s going to create more competition in a league that is already, in my opinion, the best in the country.”
On if he was involved in talks with Chad Weiberg and Dr. Kayse Shrum
“I was not, no. I think my players think I’m pretty important, but as you go up the other way, I become less important. But, I trust Chad, obviously, and Dr. Shrum to do what’s best for our university and athletic department. I think their vision and their commitment to making sure that we’re always going to be positioned to have long term success, and have a chance to compete for championships is — I don’t question anything. Not anything. I offered that if they wanted to ask my opinion, but no one followed up on that.”
On the idea of playing in Orlando and recruiting Florida
“We’ve recruited down in Florida. We’ve had a kid from Florida on our team I think every year I’ve been here, either as an assistant or head coach. We haven’t recruited down there heavily, I wouldn’t say, but we’re always mindful of heavily dense, populated places, right? Florida, New York, Texas, when you get outside of the state of Oklahoma are areas that we’re focused on a lot. Really good athletes down there, Bryce Williams is clearly one of those. And so, yeah, it’ll kind of expose us a little bit more in that area and certainly won’t hurt in recruiting.”
On if having a secure future in a conference helps in selling the program
“I think not being able to be clear in messaging makes your job more challenging. So, having a clear picture of what the future could look like definitely makes those conversations easier. So, yeah, I think there’s some merit to that. I’m excited that for at least the time being it feels like we’re all settled for at least the foreseeable future.”
On if he goes back to the pre-Cade Cunningham era with offense or continues to use a lot of ball screens with the guys he has
“We’re still evolving in that area, to be quite frank. Mostly in the sense of there is less clarity on who should be the guy with the ball, right? We had a lot of good players last year, but I think everybody knew, still, [Cade Cunningham] was better than even all the good players. But now there’s a little bit less separation in terms of that and so we’re trying to figure out who’s going to be [the guy.]
“I ask the guys sometimes, ‘We’re down one, we’ve got the last possession. Who are we giving the ball to?’ It’s a wide variety of answers right now. And our job as a staff is to figure out who’s most comfortable and who’s most productive in those situations. But the offense will come as guys become more comfortable. We’ve got several guys who are being asked to do more now than they were a year ago and a few guys who have never been here, Bryce Thompson being one of them, right? Very capable, but is he that guy? Or is he more of a decoy? Is he a better screener? Is he coming off screens? Is he a ball handler? So we’re still finding that out. We’re six practices in. I’m sorry I don’t have a ton of clear answers right now.”
On if it is rare to not know who “the guy” is at this point in the year
“In my experience, it’s not rare at all. It’s more rare, at least for me, the other way. When a player’s that good, it makes it pretty obvious. I think I was asked if I was going to give Cade (Cunningham) the ball at the end of the game after he struggled at TCU last year. I don’t even know if I thought about not giving him the ball, ever, but now there’s really a question. Maybe you try somebody different, but not in this situation.”
“… I think it’ll become clearer to be honest. It all shakes out kind of as the season goes and guys get more comfortable with their teammates and what they’re capable of doing. I think we know what Avery (Anderson) is really good at. I think we have a really good idea of what [Isaac Likekele] is good at, but Bryce Thompson, with the rest of the guys that they’re going to be on the court with is a different story. What you do with a piece out there depending on the combination is a different story. So, that’s part of it, is just trying to figure out the new guys and how they fit.”
On how the 3-point shooting has developed this offseason
“It’s gotten better. We’re probably a little bit further ahead than I thought we’d be, but it was a concern of mine. I think I talked about it at the very end of last season, things we needed to address, I think, as I recall, it was interior presence defensively, defending the paint, which has been an area of struggle for us, and then perimeter shooting consistently.
“We have guys that are capable, just haven’t done it yet with the lights on. Keylan Boone had stretches in his freshman year where he shot poorly. Last year he struggled out of the gate. Chris Harris has been injured. He’s another candidate in that area. Him and Bryce Williams are probably two guys that we’re trying to give a shot on those spots as well, but that changes the dynamic of what really is the ceiling of this team because, athletically, we’ll be one of the more elite athletically, but our skills got to make sure it’s complimentary.”
On the player’s weekly shot charts
“We’ve always done it. He hasn’t talked about it because he really didn’t talk much last year. It’s something we’ve always done, and it’s something we’ve been putting more of emphasis on this year because we do feel like it’s an area we have to be better at. We can’t be a low 30% shooting team from 3. We’ve gotta be mid-to-high 30s, and if we can do that, we’ll have a real chance of talking about being here and having these types of meetings about this team well into March.”
On Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe
“He’s settled. It’s pretty natural. We’ve only had one guy that’s just come in and be able to really dominate at this level [Cade Cunningham]. I wasn’t here for Jawun [Evans], I’m sure he was pretty good. I don’t know that he had the type of impact that Cade did. But the majority of guys are like MA and Avery and Kalib. They come in and if they’re good enough, they show some signs, but they just can’t consistently produce to help you win. Then as a sophomore, they become more comfortable with whatever role it is they have for your team and can help you. Then as a junior, you hope they can really be a leader for you. That’s where he is. He’s in that process of transitioning from a guy who’s trying to figure out what I’m saying to now we’re speaking the same language and he’s being able to go out there and help our guys as well.”
On if Matthew-Alexander Moncfrieffe’s role changes with the additions of Moussa Cisse, Tyreek Smith and Woody Newton
“He’ll probably be able to play out on the perimeter more this year with Moussa and with Tyreek, especially, just the physicality that we have. Those guys can give him a little bit more freedom to move and maybe take advantage of his quickness against maybe some guys that may be guarding him on the perimeter or being able to use his size still as a post-up guy if there are smaller wings that are guarding him. We’ll move him around quite a bit, similarly to how we did Cade and Ice last year. He’ll play some point, not a ton, but he’ll have a percentage of his minutes there as well.”
On if Bryce Thompson looks physically different that he did last year
“Yeah, I saw him twice. We played him, but you don’t really pay attention to the guys on the other team that much. But I noticed he was bigger when he came to campus. Helping him check in, I was like, ‘Man, he’s grown.’ He’s a legit 6-5.5 now, and I think he’s up to 200 pounds. He came in here about 190, 189. He’s been pretty conscious about taking care of his body, eating right, stretching, getting in the weight room and continuing to work on his game. He’s a guy who’s been a pleasant surprise physically for us.”
On what difference and extra five pounds makes
“I think the first thing it does is his confidence. I lived through it. I was 168 pounds when I got to college, and I couldn’t lift the bar. I was a poor man’s version of the Boones when I got to college. If there is such a thing. So, the athletic ability I had was negated by my lack of strength. I couldn’t really produce the way I thought I was gonna be able to. I quickly learned if I didn’t take the weight room seriously and didn’t eat right and didn’t put on some weight, I’d get knocked off the ball, couldn’t finish through contact. Rondel (Walker) went through it last year a little bit. He plays really hard and flies around, but finishing is really difficult when you don’t have the strength, especially at this level. It’s a big difference confidence-wise, but then also just the physicality of it. Your body being able to go through the wear and tear of the season and being able to play through some fatigue and injuries and things like that.”
On if there is an update on the NCAA sanctions
“I feel bad, to be honest, that there isn’t. It’s unfathomable to me that it’s been, way too long. I wish there was.”
On if the NCAA sanctions are still a distraction
“I honestly don’t know at this point what it is anymore. I think last year’s team did a good job of kinda being able to park it in the rearview mirror. I’m really not sure how much this team thinks about it at all. It would be probably, I don’t want to say criminal, that might be a little too harsh, but it would be pretty difficult to justify a bad ruling at this point, considering all we’ve been through.”
On how much he thinks about the sanctions
“I think about it because it still comes up in conversations in recruiting. It’s a real thing. We lost a recruit this spring because when I can’t tell a family something because I’m unsure, the people I’m recruiting against are definitely sure that they know something bad is gonna happen. So, that’s the message being delivered: ‘They’re getting crushed.’ I’m like, ‘Well I don’t think we’re getting crushed, and I don’t know if anything’s gonna happen at all.’ The one is kinda dancing around, the other is, ‘They’re gonna throw the book at these guys.’ They don’t know that, but it’s a recruiting deal. That’s what you deal with.”
On if negative recruiting is an “all is fair in love and war” scenario
“I don’t love it. The negative recruiting thing has never been my deal, but I get it. It’s part of it. This is how people make a living, man. It’s not the way I choose to go about that part of the job. I got asked about people losing games by forfeit because they’re not vaccinated this year. No, I don’t think anybody should lose a game because the team got sick because coaches get fired for losing games. No one should lose their job then. But yeah, it’s part of the recruiting game. It’s part of the world out there in recruiting.”
On how often he thinks about which lineups would work well together
“Every day. It doesn’t start in practice. It starts in the recruiting process. The recruiting process starts with your roster. Who do you think will be back? What do you think you’ll be able to do? Then it’s about how do we stack up against the rest of the Big 12 because that’s where we have to be our most competitive.
“I think we have more depth now than we’ve ever had. A thought, I don’t know if it’s a strong one yet but, a thought has crossed my mind on whether this team could platoon a little bit. Obviously, we’ve gotta be healthy to do that. A couple guys are banged up, but we’ll see as we kind of move along. Early on, I like to mix up the teams quite often to see which combinations work. As we get closer to Nov. 9 I have a pretty good idea.”
On Kalib Boone being in a sling
“The way I view things like this, especially for a guy like him who’s been through this two years, resting isn’t bad. He’s doing his rehab. It’s not major. There’s also a physical toll long term that he’s not having to waste reps right now. But I think he’ll be back when we need him to be back to play games, and it gives me an opportunity to see some of those guys a little bit more in practice. What can Moussa (Cisse) do? I think I know what he is, but I haven’t seen it. So him and Tyreek (Smith) are getting a little bit more reps than maybe they would have if Kalib was in practice.”
On if he thinks about redshirts for anyone
“Redshirting is always in my mind. It’s not a conversation I have really until it’s necessary. You never know, and this isn’t like last year where (eligibility) doesn’t matter. It does. So, you have to be conscious of we’re not going to have a guy able to take advantage of playing maybe gonna waste a year and it’s gonna be beneficial for him, first and foremost, but also for the program long term to not burn a year. That’s a conversation we’ll have as we get closer to playing games when that’s actually consequential.”
On how he’d deal with telling someone they’d redshirt because he hasn’t had to deal with it to this point
“I don’t know. It’ll be a first. Some of those things I just kind of let take its natural course. We’ll see. We kind of got an unintended redshirt for Donovan (Williams) and Chris (Harris) last year, in a year that didn’t count, but I didn’t have to have a conversation with them. It just happened, unfortunately, for them. We’ll see. A couple more weeks and maybe I’ll give a little bit more thought about it.”
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