STILLWATER — Mason Cox used to be Brittney Griner.
And then Joel Embiid. And Ryan Spangler. And virtually every big man the Cowboys were due to face the past two seasons.
Well, he's Mason Cox. And for him and his family, nothing could be cooler — or more unexpected — than that.
The walk-on engineering student, who's already accepted a job with Exxon Mobil in Houston, was thrown into Tuesday night's loss at Texas. And not just garbage time.
With Oklahoma State's depth-depleted roster short on size, the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Cox at least represented resistance against a bigger Longhorns squad in a game that had gotten away in a season that threatens to get away.
Then the unlikely happened: Cox provided some feel-good moments in an otherwise forgettable game, hustling and rebounding and blocking a shot and grabbing a steal and even scoring during a fun-filled, six-minute stretch.
Before Tuesday night, he'd played six minutes in two seasons, bit parts of three games.
“My phone was blowing up from people texting me, from Twitter and everything,” Cox said. “I had a few guys from my soccer team back in the day texting me. I hadn't talked to them for about five years.
“That was kind of cool.”
Kind of cool?
With Cox now a potential new piece for the short-handed Cowboys going forward, including Saturday's Bedlam game, it's time for some catching up on his story.
A fantasy story.
Mason Cox had never played organized basketball before arriving at OSU. Played soccer in high school, where he sprouted six inches between his junior and senior year at Marcus High in Flower Mound, Texas.
“A 7-foot goalie,” said Cowboys senior Markel Brown.
Then one day …
“I just picked up a basketball one day here,” he said. “I was like, ‘Heck, I'm almost 7-feet tall, I might as well try it.'”
That was at the Colvin Center, a recreation facility on campus, where pretty soon he was noticed by someone affiliated with OSU's women's team.
“She asked me if I wanted to (practice) with them and imitate Brittney Griner,” Mason said of the former Baylor women's basketball star.
“I was Brittney Griner for a year and a half.”
Before long, the men's team noticed him. And facing a shortage of players two years ago, due to defections and injuries, men's coach Travis Ford instructed assistant Tommy Wade to check Mason out.
“Oh, I remember him out there shooting around with the women's team and saying, ‘Hey, go find out who he is,” Ford said.
Mason still has the message from Wade saved on his phone, where he was summoned to the basketball office.
“Just because I was in disbelief,” said Cox, who of course made that meeting. “About two hours later, I was suiting up for practice.
“From there, that's how everything just rolled together. It's been a heck of an experience and a cool college deal.”
That's right, Mason Cox went from a what-the-heck, let's-try-this-basketball thing at the Colvin Center, to helping the Cowgirls, to joining the Cowboys.
To putting up numbers at Texas.
And there are more grand stories, too.
Like the time Brown and Brian Williams tried to throw down on Cox.
“They were just picking on the new kid, I guess,” Cox said. “They ended up on the floor. I don't think they've ever tried since.”
And, yes, it's true.
“Why did he tell you all that?” a sheepish Brown said, laughing.
“It's kind of true. A little bit.”
Cox used to sit in the student section at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Now Brown is lobbying Ford to play the big man more.
Ford joked after the Texas game that he'd be the first one to say he should have been playing him more. Not that it's that simple. Cox is serious about school, with engineering classes keeping him away from some practices.
Still, Cox's work ethic has clearly paid off in his vast improvement. And it seems likely he'll find more playing time, perhaps eliminating his role of imitating other big men.
“He'll probably move off the scout team at this point,” Ford said with a grin.
For the rest of the Cox family, the experience has been no less wild.
Phil and Jeanette, Mason's parents, have long been attending Cowboys games, home and away, including last year's trip to Barcelona, Spain. They weren't necessarily expecting their son to play, yet wanted to support him and the team just the same.
“When he joined the basketball team, it was a shock to our system,” Phil said. “We thought we were finished traveling around with the kids with all of their sports. It's been quite a ride. And a lot of fun.”
Tuesday turned out to be a perfect storm of sorts. Mom and dad were there, but so were brothers Nolan and Austin, a few high school pals and some family friends from Florida.
And then the second half happened.
“You just cannot imagine what's going through my mind,” Phil said. “It was just amazing, way exceeded my expectations.”
“You get in there and you kind of get one thing going and things start falling together and you try to provide energy for the team,” he said. “I know we're not playing our best right now sometimes, but if they need someone to step in and give energy to the team, I'm more than willing to do it.”