STILLWATER — The Cowboys are unbanned and will be on the hardwood before you know it.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton held his first news conference of the school year Tuesday to discuss the opening days of his team’s practice and what he expects from the 2022-23 season. Here is what he had to say.
“Brief statement, obviously like everybody else, excited about a new year, opportunity to get back together and see what this program can continue to become under our leadership. I’m excited that we got a pretty veteran group of guys who’ve been around the block a little bit and several of which have been around the block with us. And so, looking forward to just getting through these next six weeks of practice, seven weeks of practice before we tip it off and hit the ground running.”
On Memphis’ light penalty from
“Listen first and foremost, I’m a Penny Hardaway fan. I’m a basketball fan, so I’ve always admired Penny. We’ve actually become good friends. So in no way — and I hope it wasn’t taken this way in some sort of sleight at them — I’m actually happy for their kids that they don’t have to endure the agony of going through what we went through. Doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Glad it’s behind us though and looking forward to just kind of moving forward.”
On if there is relief this year knowing that is behind them
“Yeah. You know, and I think talked about it at the end of last year, kind of unfortunately the way it ended, but that kind of signified that part of it being over. Just kind of trying to be as focused on the guys we have now and what we can accomplish with this group, this particular year, but also continue to build, you know, constant and continuous successful program here.”
On any discussion regarding the scholarship reduction
“I don’t know. I haven’t had any of those conversations. I kind of leave some of that stuff to the people above me in administration to deal with and just kind of, from a day-to-day basis, do the best we can with what we know we have. And what we know we have now is, you know, we got 11 guys on scholarship, four walk-ons. Like I said, fairly experienced group of guys who are really excited about what they can do this year together.”
On how much motivation he is taking from having postseason back on the table and if it is easier to wake up in the morning
“I’ve never had an issue sleeping. I don’t sleep often. But sleep has never really been a problem for me. What I’ll say about the opportunity to participate in the postseason this year as it’s always a part of the goal, right? We want that to be the expectation. We know this league is hard, but there’s also a of lot opportunities there to show that you are one of those teams that’s deserving. So, we’ll go through the non-conference and try to get better like we always do. And hopefully be prepared to play our best basketball once the calendar turns to conference play.”
On how versatile the starting lineup can be
“Yeah. We’ll have the ability, I believe, from what I’ve seen so far, to play different styles. And I haven’t made a secret about it. You guys will see us, maybe some of you guys will stick around and see the pre-practice, we worked a lot with Kalib (Boone) and Moussa (Cisse) and some combination of the three bigs we have — Kalib, Moussa and Tyreek (Smith) — playing together. One of the reasons is they’ve learned how to play together. The other is kind of out of necessity. We’re not as long on the perimeter as we have been in the past. We’re a little bit shorter. You talk about John-Michael Wright, versus Isaac Likekele, right? Not the wingspan. He’s really tough, athletic, but he’s 6-foot, you know, and so we’ll have to look a little bit different in terms of being able to still be competitive on the glass.
“The other thing from a positive standpoint, it gives us the two best shot blockers in the Big 12 on the court at the same time. So a team that was already pretty stout defensively can be, you know, maybe go from four in the country to a little higher. But I also think that this team shoots it better and our early returns on that are very favorable for us.”
On the mix of guys at the guard positions
“Yeah, depth is certainly an asset for us, but the experienced depth, guys who have been successful in college basketball already. John-Michael Wright averaged 18 points a game for three years. He didn’t just jump up and decided he wanted to play here. He’s proven that he can compete at a high level. Caleb Asberry was a 40% 3-point shooter at each of the last two stops he’s made at Texas State and Ranger College, playing for some really good coaches and himself averaging 13 points a game in a conference that’s pretty good.
“You feel good you’ve got guys that have done it outside your program, and then there’s some guys who haven’t quite done it here that we believe, you know, we bought them here. We believe they can. Chris Harris has been hurt, essentially, through his whole time here. Woody Newton didn’t really ever get comfortable last year. He’s had a really good summer. Quion (Williams) may be a guy who figures out a way to get on the court early. Even though he’s the only freshman we have, he’s got a super high-competitive motor. He can play multiple positions and guard multiple guys. And then you got your mainstays in Avery (Anderson) and Bryce (Thompson) and guys like that. So, I feel good that that’ll drive some fight for minutes early. And give us a chance to really see how deep we can be.”
On the addition of John-Michael Wright and needing a point guard
“Yeah, I mean, probably more than I thought in terms of his feel for the game. The hardest part about recruiting through the portal is you don’t really get to know them as people. And that’s the thing we always took a lot of pride in throughout the recruiting process, getting on guys early, getting to know as much as you could about them. So, you’re always a little bit leery about, you know, are there things that you didn’t uncover that may show up. And he’s been better than I hoped in terms of tremendously high character, super, super competitive, great teammate. A guy who understands that even though he averaged 18 points a game, he’s not going to be necessarily asked to average 18 points a game here. He’s gonna be asked to be more facilitating-minded and allow Bryce (Thompson) and Avery (Anderson) to probably carry the load from scoring on perimeter standpoint. And he’s embraced that. He’s excited about the opportunity to play at this level and show that he can be successful. And I think he’s just got to continue to figure out how to be more vocal. I think he’s kind of taking a little bit of a backseat to those other guys in that regard, but they’ll be just fine.”
On Kalib Boone adjusting to power forward
“He’s actually got some natural shooting touch, a natural shooting touch there. Sometimes the ball handling escapes him. So we try not to put him into many positions where he has to make plays with the ball on the floor on the perimeter, but he’s really good in screens. He’s actually a better rebounder offensively from there. He’s not battling with as many bodies and so that’s been a positive kind of — I don’t know if surprise. We kind of knew it was possible, but just seeing him embrace that has been really good. And the other thing is, him and Moussa (Cisse) learning how to pass to one another, which is a little bit different for him because they didn’t play that much together last year.”
On losing length and how important it makes Woody Newton’s role as a stretch forward
“There’s a great opportunity there for him. He’s got a lot of talent. And sometimes he’s in his own way, but not in a bad way. He’s just, you know, he’s got to learn how to assert himself more consistently, and play with a higher motor in a more consistent level of energy, because he can shoot. He’s got a pretty good feel for when to cut and how to space the floor and he can rebound the ball. But again, at this level it’s about not what you can do, but what you do consistently to help your team and consistency is the thing that’s really, really key for him moving forward.”
On Kalib Boone adjusting to not having his twin brother Keylan Boone
“It’s probably unfair for me to say how he is, you know, it’s probably more of a personal question. I don’t know if you had an opportunity to ask him, but from a basketball standpoint, he hasn’t been much different. Just knowing them, I do think that there was a sense of responsibility he felt while Keylan was here, that maybe he doesn’t necessarily feel now so that may take a little bit of external pressure off him, but as far as basketball it really hasn’t been that much.”
On whether Chris Harris is a welcome sight to have back
“Chris is a welcome sight because he’s a good player. And because as a fourth-year guy now, he knows what I expect. He can own the conversation in the locker room, He and Avery (Anderson) and Kalib (Boone), those guys. Those guys have been with me here for a while and as freshmen, none of them were really that ready to play. Chris probably was the most physically ready of all of them, and then obviously got hurt middle of the year that year, and then never came back from the sophomore injury. So, it’s great to have him back to see him happy and feeling healthy. He’s in the best shape that he’s ever been in. He lost about 22 pounds this summer, which was a big part of him being able to sustain some ability to play and so it’s good to have him. Because like I said, you can’t replace that experience. The last few years we’ve been fairly young in terms of playing a lot of guys who hadn’t had a whole lot of experience in college basketball and this year we don’t have that issue.”
On whether Chris Harris can help in 3-point shooting
“He kind of gets lost in the conversation, because he’s not a new guy and no one’s really seen him produce consistently yet, but he’s a guy that we should be able to count on to be a shotmaker for us. But, make no mistake about it, Avery Anderson and Bryce Thompson, those guys are where it starts. Their numbers from 3-point stance, have to continue to improve, because we’re gonna go offensively probably as far as those guys.”
On building a roster around Avery Anderson, Bryce Thompson and Moussa Cisse
“The first thing I had to make sure they were all coming back to school. I mean, that was the first part. I spent the first probably three weeks of the offseason just visiting with them about where they were. Obviously Avery (Anderson) went through the draft process, we got some information for Moussa (Cisse), he didn’t go to the draft process. And then obviously, you know, Bryce had started to come on. So that was the first part, is getting them back. And, you know, especially with today’s landscape, the opportunities are endless for them. Sometimes not always the best for them, but they’re out there.
“So, once you get them back, then it’s about helping them understand how they can be effective together, and that they need each other. And that then pieces around them have to fit right? And so you got to have some more rebounding. We didn’t necessarily address that from a big standpoint, but it was the first time in my coaching career that I wasn’t out on a recruiting trail in the spring looking for size. You’re almost always looking for some inside presence, but we got three guys who can all play the five who are pretty good together. And so that was an advantage going into spring so we can really focus on those backcourt spots.”
On what is different about Moussa Cisse this year
“Maturity. I think in many ways he came in here and felt a lot of pressure. Guy’s a five-star coming in, that kind of creates a certain expectation from the outside about what you should do, what you should like. He just turned 20 years old a couple of weeks ago. He’s been in college three years. So, when he gets to college at 17 over two years ago, he’s not ready to do anything that people said he was gonna do. But he didn’t understand that. And so he had some success. Probably didn’t appreciate his success that he had in Memphis. And then so when he transfers then it’s like, well, now you really have to be the best big in the country. He’s not ready to do anything. He’s only 18 years old still. So he gets here, it’s a new environment. And he got here late because he was in the draft and had to finish up summer school. And again, it took a little while. And then last year’s team had a lot of dynamics. We got the postseason ban right before the season starts, his mom passes during the year, I mean, so I think there’s a sense of peace that he has now.
“He probably left Stillwater three times thinking he would be gone from Stillwater for weeks, and he wound up coming back within days. And I think he feels at home now. And so I think that’s a very positive thing that he’s comfortable, he likes where he is, he feels like he’s getting better. And I don’t think he’s focused on what’s next anymore. I think he’s really centered on trying to be the best he can today.”
On relying on Bryce Thompson and how good he can be this year
“Bryce probably had as good a summer of anybody I’ve been around in terms of really understanding how to be himself. Bryce, in many ways, looks different, but had a similar experience to Moussa (Cisse). McDonald’s All-American, Mr. Basketball in this state, goes away to a blue blood, but doesn’t have the success, comes home, and the expectations probably for him into a new environment and teammates and all that. You know, probably a little bit out of whack, but again, the kids can’t accept that. It’s a mental game for them. But again, him too, he’s settled. He had a tremendous summer. I think he trimmed down about 4% off his body fat. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. And I think he’s back to being the confident basketball player that he was in high school, but with an understanding of how to do it at the college level”
On whether there is something he has learned about getting transfers up to speed quickly
“It’s hard to really give a general … just because each situation is so different. My first year, for instance, we got a transfer. We lost Jawun Evans. We needed a point guard. So, we had to bring a kid in here and he had to play. So, Kendall Smith had an unbelievable experience because he was coming from Cal State-Northridge, and he was a starting point guard in the Big 12 all of a sudden. His experience was a very positive one. We’ve had some other guys, quite honestly, who didn’t fit because it didn’t work as immediately for them. With these guys who have embraced taking a little bit longer, they’ve been able to find themselves and then accepting that there’s still opportunity to grow there.”
On not knowing how many scholarships he has for next season’s team with the sanctions and players having an extra year
“I don’t talk about it. I think about it, obviously, because I want to prepare, but it’s an impossible exercise. I’m always fairly honest. Moussa Cisse will probably not be back in college next year, I don’t think. But he’s got two years of eligibility left. Bryce Thompson, if he has the type of year that I hope he has, he’s probably at least going through the process next spring. Avery Anderson, Kalib Boone, Chris Harris, Tyreek Smith, who is going to graduate still with two years, we got six guys who all could be gone. And if they are, this team is going to look very different next year. Caleb Asberry, he’s in his COVID year, so that’s it for him. Bernie Kouma is in his COVID year, so that’s it for him. So now you got eight. I don’t know. John Michael has got two years. He’s already a transfer. What do you do? You just try to sign as many good players as you can and figure it out next year when the time comes.
“It’s hard turning down good players. Credit to our staff, they’ve done a tremendous job here early in identifying guys who we think can fit what we’re trying to build here in the future. And they ask the question, and again, I have to answer it. Ultimately, I’m responsible for it. I know that there’s a limit of scholarships we have to be at by next fall. We won’t be over it.”
On whether he asks the players to give him updates on what they’re thinking about using the extra year
“It’s probably unfair, to be honest. Who knows? We don’t know. I don’t usually talk about them, but I think Lon Kruger — and this was before all this stuff happened — when Trae Young came to campus, they weren’t thinking he was gonna go. And all of a sudden, the kid is averaging 30 points and 10 assists, and he ain’t coming back to college. Some of it just kind of happens over the natural course of the season. As we get closer to the end, there will be an idea. You’ll have a feel for it, and then our staff will have to be ready to adapt.”
On the NBA potentially doing away with the one-and-done rule
“I’ve always been of the mind that, people when they become smart enough, old enough, mature enough to decipher information, to be able to make the decision that they think is best for them. And if that means a high school kid thinks he’s ready to go to the NBA, I’m not against that. I do think that there’s a loss on the value of education, and not just what you read in class, but just who you figure out you are in college on a campus, away from home. Sometimes we just miss that in the conversation.
“People just need to grow up. These kids, a lot of times they may be physically ready, but mentally, are they ready to be full adults with millions of dollars that they don’t know how to really care for? That’s where a lot of bad things happen. So, I’m certainly not opposed to it, but I wish that we would do a better job of helping the kids understand how to evaluate that process.”
On if the one-and-done rule going away changes the way he recruits
“It doesn’t. We’ve always tried to recruit the best dudes we could get. That’s where it starts. Character matters, but we want the best guys. All of a sudden, there’s a guy out there that we recruit and he’s good enough to go to the NBA and he does, well, we’ll figure it out.”
On Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark
“I think it was a really, really wise choice by the league to hire a person with that level of experience in what is becoming a more and more media-centric world that we live in. I do think he’s got a lot of unique ideas about how to change the look of the Big 12. And you know, some people get uncomfortable with that, but I think it’s good. You got to evolve. Nobody in here is walking around with a Blockbuster card. Most of you guys have probably never heard of Blockbuster. You just got to evolve and adapt, and I think that’s what the Big 12 did is they’re peering into the future. And I think Brett’s gonna do a really good job.”
On the leaders of the team
“We’ve got a lot of guys who want to do the right things. It’s harder these days, I think, to talk about leadership because peer pressure is so much more real than it used to be. And guys are a little bit more afraid to really challenge each other in difficult moments. But we do have guys that are personally responsible and guys that want to do the right thing and then hold themselves to a high standard of the way they live. But the guys who’ve been around, they set the tone for what the expectations are in our locker room. You point to the three guys I talked about early Avery, Chris and Kalib, four-year guys who’ve been here a few times, been in some 6 a.m. practices, been in some boot camps before. They know what to expect.”
On how he measures team success this season
“That’s a great question. I’ve always said my job is to make sure that our team gets better from yesterday — practice No. 1 to whenever we close this thing down for the final time. And if we improve, and it won’t always be a straight line, but if we’re much better individually and collectively at the end of the season, then that’s success. Now, are there specific goals we’d like to accomplish? Absolutely. I won’t go into them today because the team still kind of deciding, but they decide what success is by the standard they set for themselves. I know that our fans expect to see a winning team out there. So that’s our job is to push our guys to be the best we can be.”
On whether he has to ask guys to become vocal leaders without Isaac Likekele
“You’d like it to happen organically, but you can’t assume it will. So, certainly, it has to be something that’s talked about and emphasized early on. Avery has come a long way in that area. I’m not sure he said 10 words his freshman year, and now he’s probably one of our most vocal people out there. Yeah, part of it is comfort in knowing. He knows I believe in him. We’ve gone through some good and bad times together, and I think he expects to help us have success by the way he plays and carries himself. Yeah, it’s the first time in four years not having that dude running around here, locking people up. As much as anything is just his defensive presence and ability to take a guy out is something that I’m kind of curious to find out who’s gonna step up in that role.”
On whether there is an area of coaching he feels more comfortable in from last year
“I want to say yeah, but things are changing so fast. I can’t keep up anymore. I feel like I kind of have an idea what I’m doing more now than it did. Five years ago when we were having this first press conference, the FBI had just arrested one of my assistant coaches. So my head was better, guys. I’m honestly not sure what happened on that day. But five years later, I feel like we’ve stabilized the program. We’ve got an ignited, excited, encouraged fan base. This place deserves a winning basketball program, and it’s my job right now to lead the program to success. I’m really just focused on getting up every day, making sure our staff is locked in with our guys, doing the best job I can to generate support on campus, and hopefully we can get 13,611 people in here as often as possible to watch us win some games.”
On boot camp
“I don’t lead boot camp. I’m there as a cheerleader, not always cheerleading. But our strength coach, he’s phenomenal by the way. I talked about the body changing of some of these guys. I need to mention Mark Mitchell who came on with us last year from SMU. Mark and I had worked together at Stephen F. Austin. He was our strength coach there. He has done a phenomenal job just in his time. He came in a difficult time last year because he got here late August, and there’s really not a whole lot that you can do especially when you’re bringing a new system in because you’re so close to getting ready for a season. But the eight weeks we had this summer plus the advantage of not playing in the tournament is we had five weeks in the spring also. Those guys bodies have changed for the better.
“Kalib Boone is up 215. He never got over 200 pounds for three years. A lot of it has to do with the kids putting in the work but, Mitch put a plan together that just escalated their growth. He takes care of boot camp, and I just go there and I make sure that they do what he says.”
On what he learns from watching boot camp
“There wasn’t that separation from a physical standpoint. What you find more, especially when you got a team, a group of guys who work hard like we do, they all make physical progress. You see who’s more vocal, who’s gonna step up because it’s not easy. Who’s strong enough mentally to keep pushing themselves through bringing a teammate along and understanding that you just got to get through it. We’re not going to change it. We’re not gonna say, ‘Ah, looks like he’s tired now. Let’s just come back tomorrow.’ Nope. Everybody goes through it. That’s how you earn your way into practice, and they all got it done.”
On Quion Williams
“Q has been really good. I try not to, save for Cade Cunningham, put too much on freshmen. We’ve always played young guys, but in terms of expecting them to lead us, very rare. But he’s got the ability to impact us having success the year because he’s a really, really competitive kid. He’s unselfish, and I think he understands he’s got a role. He doesn’t need to try to come and be the man. He’s got some older guys that can help them learn how to become a really good college basketball player. You put that talent with the work ethic and the ability to learn, and he’s gonna be a really good one.”
On OSU’s nonconference schedule
“I thought it was never going to come out, but I’m glad my daughter found it in my son’s room. No, it’s a good schedule. We’ve always scheduled pretty aggressively. This schedule may not be as aggressive as some of the ones we’ve had in the past, but I think it’s a well-balanced schedule. It gives us plenty opportunities to get some high-major teams, get some road challenges early on. And then the league is the league. I know we play at Kansas on [Dec. ] 31st. I know our first game is against UTA. Other than that, I try not to focus on a whole lot else.”
On the balance of making a strong nonconference schedule
“It’s more of a philosophical question. Our league is good enough that if you don’t fall on your face in the nonconference, you’re gonna be in the discussion if you can hold your own at home for the most part, maybe steal one or two on the road. You don’t have to go 17-1 in this league to get to the tournament or to have a really good seed. We were 11-7 and were a four seed, maybe people think we should have been a three because of the way we finished. But that’s the beauty of playing in a conference like this, which is no question the best of the country. A conference in which we’ve now finished in the top half two consecutive years. I think that’s kind of a nugget that people don’t really pay that much attention to. But even last year’s team, with all the stuff wasn’t going on, there were only four teams that had better records than us in the conference, the best conference in the country. We finished the season playing really, really good, especially on the defensive end. I think we can build on that.”
On the continuity of his coaching staff
“It’s huge. The continuity, I’ve always believed that continuity in your staff helps the continuity with terminology and communication with the players, the relationships. So having all these guys back, and they’re all really good, I feel like I have a staff that’s … here’s my level of confidence in my staff: Five years ago, or maybe even three years ago, I would have never done USA Basketball because I had to be away from my team for about two weeks in the summer. But this staff gives me the confidence that they’re well equipped to handle anything here in my absence. They’re all really, really experienced guys and girls. They’re all really talented, and they all have the utmost respect from our players and get the response that’s necessary. So, I’m thankful for them. I’m thankful for our administration for allowing us to make sure we have a good staff, and I’m thankful that those guys believe in the vision of our program and want to help us have success.”