By John Helsley
follow on Twitter @jjhelsley
Someone posed the question late Wednesday night – “Have we been hyping the wrong Oklahoma State freshman?”
How about answering a question with a question, “Why pick only one?”
Le’Bryan Nash came to the Cowboys with all the credentials – high-ranking national recruit, dunk champion, NBA body with crazy skills.
Cezar Guerrero came in under the radar, despite a big-time prep career in California. Then his early major moment was a scare, when he suffered a stinger, lost feeling in his extremities and had to be medi-flighted to Oklahoma City.
Well, Guerrero’s second impression, made on a wild Wednesday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena, is what prompted the original question. With 29 points, almost all of them clutch, and eight 3-pointers the little guard won over the Cowboys crowd and all but won OSU the game, 90-85, in overtime.
The 29 points tied Guerrero with James Anderson and Byron Houston for the most by a freshman in Cowboys history, but more than anything, established his personality: fast, fun and fine in prime time.
“I didn’t know about any records, to be honest with you,” he said after the game. “I just go out there and play. I just want to do me and do what I’m capable of doing. And that’s making shots, creating stuff and winning games. I’m a leader. If you need me to be vocal, I’m vocal.”
That’s right, Guerrero fancies himself a leader, no matter his freshman status.
With Keiton Page out with a toe injury, Guerrero took it upon himself to fill the void.
“This is real stuff, I told KP, ‘I’ve got you,’” Guerrero said. “When he was putting on his clothes, his regular clothes, I told him, ‘Hey baby boy, I got you. Don’t worry about it. I’m here. I’m going to support you and I’m ready to take on that role to be that leader for you.’
“There’s always moments for us to be leaders in this game. You’ve got to take your opportunity to be a leader on the court and just flourish with it.”
Guerrero flourished, alright.
And his intensity and aggressive play should help Nash, who sometimes plays like he needs a jolt of excitement.
Nash has flashed his potential, with a 26-point effort in his exhibition debut and a gliding style and strength in and around the basket. He’s an obvious talent.
So who deserves the hype?
Celebrate them both.
For the first time in his career, Page did not play for the Cowboys.
The injury occurred in Tuesday’s win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, as Page came up limping after crashing out of bounds on one end. He played on, however, and Ford was looking forward to his long-range shooting to combat UTSA’s zone, when word came that he was really hurting.
Page tried to give it a go in warm-ups, but changed from his uniform into a sweat suit before the game. X-rays revealed nothing too serious, with the injury being termed as similar to a turf toe.
Cowboys coach Travis Ford is optimistic about his availability for the NIT semifinals in New York on Wednesday.
“My guess is he’ll be ready to go,” Ford said.
Don’t Sleep On UTSA
Former OSU standout Brooks Thompson brought a savvy and talented team into GIA.
The Roadrunners return four starters and 12 lettermen from last year’s 20-14 team that won the Southland Conference Tournament and made the school’s first NCAA postseason appearance in any sport.
A definite advantage for the Roadrunners is the benefit a summer trip to Australia delivered in the form of practices and games and chemistry.
“This is with the utmost respect, San Antonio is probably a better basketball team than we are right now, for the fact they have four returning starters, they went to Australia in the summertime and they’re just so much further ahead,” Ford said. “They’ve got good players and are really well coached.
“Without Keiton Page, even with Keiton Page, I knew this was going to take a special effort, period. I got to watch enough tape on San Antonio to realize that at this time of year, they’re really very well polished.”
UTSA was the unanimous pick to win the Southland West Division.