By John Helsley
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Travis Ford found himself in need of some size.
His 2011-12 Cowboys’ roster offered appeal, with athletes galore ready to run and gun – he promises! – and finally fulfill the need for speed suggested when he arrived from UMass.
Still, something was missing: big bodies.
That sent Ford searching – clear to the Czech Republic.
When Marek Soucek landed in Oklahoma late Thursday evening and made the drive into Stillwater, Ford had not only a legit 7-footer, but one styled for the up-tempo plans of the season ahead.
“We were late in the game looking for a big man and came across Marek and heard a lot about him, did some background work and got some film on him,” Ford said. “We watched a lot of film, then made contact to his high school coach and kind of went from there.
“Marek does fit our style of play, for somebody who can shoot the ball the way he does with his size. His coach knew our style and had watched our teams play and his first comment was that this would be the perfect fit for Marek.”
Ford’s pursuit of Soucek began months ago, but was kept hush-hush as the Cowboys coach worked to get the young Czech’s class work verified here through the NCAA. Once complete, OSU had to provide a visa for Soucek to take to the embassy there, clearing the way for a passport and his ticket to, eventually, Stillwater, hopefully before any of the other interested schools – Maryland, Washington, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, to name a few – pounced, too.
Now he’s a Cowboy. And the Cowboys are anxious to see just what they’ve got.
Ford nor his coaches had seen Soucek in person until Thursday night, going only on what they saw on film. Ford joked that he told assistant Steve Middleton, who picked Soucek up at the airport, to “send him back home if he turns up 6-foot-4.”
A look at Soucek’s game on YouTube, however, proved plenty tempting.
The big man is skilled, with a smooth outside shot, the ability to score inside with his left or right hand, a deft passing touch and no fear of mixing it up either, like some big men trained in the European game.
“A lot of times, these foreign players do bring great fundamentals,” Ford said. “He’s played against good competition. We’re excited to get him in here to adapt to our team and adapt to the state and to school.
“There’s always an adjustment period. But all the players are excited, which is fun. They’ve all been asking about him. And that’s the type of team we have – anybody that can help us be successful, they’re all for it.
“This team has embraced it and is excited about it and has almost been giddy about it.”
Soucek acknowledges the transition. And he embraces it, too.
“I’m missing so many I love,” Soucek said. “I know in a few days it will be OK. I think it will help my basketball and my life. That’s why I wanted to go to Oklahoma State, because I can play basketball at the highest level and study.”