Bedlam basketball: The little big men of Bedlam

Oklahoma State's Kamari Murphy and Le'Bryan Nash and Oklahoma's Ryan Spangler and Cameron Clark now answer to once inconceivable labels: Big men. Albeit, little big men.
by Ryan Aber and John Helsley Published: January 26, 2014

“They try to get into him,” Spangler said. “He's quick. He can shoot the ball. If they're going to play off of him, he'll shoot it, if they're going to get into him he's going to take a couple dribbles either to get the shot or look for a teammate.”

Spangler, at 6-8, tops both teams in rebounding, averaging 9.8, and has had some big games scoring. He and Murphy are the ones called to play bigger than big, frequently fending off centers who stand above them and also outweigh them.

“I thought I'd be an inside-out forward,” Spangler said, “but I'll get my chance the next couple of years. Right now we have the guys to run the first four spots. I'll do whatever I can. I'm doing fine at the five. They're able to let me step out still, so I'm good.”

Murphy worked hard on his ball-handling and shooting skills as a rising high school star in Brooklyn, so he could step further away from the basket. Now, like the others, he's doing what's necessary.

“I don't want to say I'm a three man, but I'd say I'm a hybrid four who can dribble, run the floor, shoot,” Murphy said. “Of course, I have to extend my range, but I think my 15-foot, maybe my 17-footer is above average.

“But this is what I have to do with this team so we can win, so that's not really a big deal for me.”

And the Cowboys and Sooners are both winning, with each team at 16 wins and ranked in the Top 25. Bigger isn't necessarily better.

“We are not the same team without Michael Cobbins in there,” OSU coach Travis Ford said. “That doesn't mean good or bad. It just means we are a different team.

“We can be great. And we have become great in a different way.”

It's not always easy.

Banging with bigs can and has resulted in foul troubles for both teams. And the stress and strain of regularly being undersized could eventually take a toll.

Most nights, the Cowboys and Sooners will be smaller. Bigger might not necessarily be better, but it sure is preferred.

And while both teams rely heavily on their guards, neither can thrive long-term without their post men continuing to redefine themselves …

As big men.

by Ryan Aber
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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by John Helsley
OSU Reporter Sr.
John Helsley grew up in Del City, reading all the newspapers and sports magazines he could get his hands on. And Saturday afternoons, when the Major League Game of the Week was on, he'd keep a scorecard for the game. So the sports appeal was was...
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