By John Helsley
Ray Penn’s worst fear went official last week, with his season ruled over due to the ongoing issue with his right knee, where a “stress reaction” isn’t getting better and threatens to get worse.
The loss of Penn may not rank as OSU’s worst fear, yet it dramatically changes the team’s dynamic and shrinks an already small margin for error.
The Cowboys’ plan at point guard going forward: More Fred Gulley and Keiton Page, with an apparent emphasis on the latter.
Ideal? No. Penn’s quickness and ability to penetrate will be missed.
Survivable? Absolutely. The Cowboys won at Kansas State and are 3-2 overall with Penn on the sideline.
When Page missed five of six games recently, Page handled the majority of the duty at the point. Expect that to continue, with Gulley still prone to too many freshman mistakes.
A push toward more Page seemed to be the tone when Cowboys coach Travis Ford was asked if Penn’s injury presented an opportunity for Gulley.
“Absolutely,” Ford said, before continuing on. “It’s an opportunity for Keiton. Keiton Page hasn’t played much point. He should have wanted to have played some point this year. Being his size and everything, I wish he would have worked all summer long (and said), ‘Coach I want to be the point guard.’
“He might have wanted that. We never really gave him a shot. So now it is his chance, if that’s something he wanted. He’s never really said it, but it should be. It should be something that he should want to be able to do.”
Reading between the lines, it may present Page’s best opportunity going forward, as in next year and beyond, when he could be a top backup option at the point and shooting guard spots. The prize of the Cowboys’ recruiting class is 6-3 guard Markel Brown out of Louisiana, who figures to jump into the shooting guard spot previously manned by Page.
Currently redshirting JP Olukemi should get a serious look at the 3 position, as Ford looks to get bigger.
So the more versatile Page can be, the better.
In that regard, it’s an important stretch for Gulley, too, since Page could be infringing on his future playing time at the point.
Ford said he’s not looking for any specific stat numbers from Gulley.
“No, we haven’t talked about that,” Ford said. “I don’t want to put that pressure on him. I did that with Byron (Eaton) last year, midway through the season. I do it with certain guys with different stats. But, with him, more positives than negatives. And understand your job on defense. First and foremost, understand your job and don’t turn it over.”
No pressure? The pressure is on.