Injuries were already a storyline surrounding the Oklahoma State men's basketball team. And concern is amplifying, with Cowboys coach Travis Ford revealing that starting swingman Brian Williams has injured his wrist and is out indefinitely.
Ford broke the news Wednesday at Big 12 Media Day in Kansas City, saying Williams “is pretty seriously hurt right now … will be out for a while, and that does not help our basketball team as far as rebounding. Brian Williams was one of the more athletic players in our league — 6-5, he was playing the three-four for us. He's out for a while. We're not sure how long yet.”
A sophomore, Williams injured the wrist when he took a hard fall during practice earlier this week. Ford is still awaiting word on the severity of the injury.
OSU finished last season without three key injured players: center Philip Jurick (Achilles), forward Jéan-Paul Olukemi and forward Le'Bryan Nash (hand). Jurick still hasn't returned to full speed, while Olukemi is practicing, yet deals with occasional swelling.
Nash is back at 100 percent.
Williams started 20 games for the Cowboys a year ago, including all 18 Big 12 Conference games. He averaged 9.6 points and 3.3 rebounds. On a team lacking size, Williams was being counted on to help even more on the boards, putting his leaping ability in play.
OSBY, FITZGERALD AND M'BAYE NAMED OU CAPTAINS
Seniors Andrew Fitzgerald and Romero Osby and junior Amath M'Baye are this season's captains for the Oklahoma Sooners. Perhaps an indication of his expected impact, M'Baye earns the honor in his OU debut after sitting out last year following a transfer from Wyoming. Osby started all 31 games last season averaging 12.9 points, a team-high 7.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shot in 30.2 minutes per game. Fitzgerald has started the last 64 games for Oklahoma, finishing last season third in team scoring.
“Those guys have done an excellent job consistently with workouts as well as on campus and in the community, and their teammates obviously respect that,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “They want what's best for the team, and they're all about working to make each other better every day and representing well, and for those three, it comes pretty naturally.”
KANSAS STILL THE 1
In the preseason poll of league coaches, Kansas came in at No. 1.
No surprise, considering the Jayhawks have won eight straight Big 12 regular season titles. Picking any team other than a Bill Self club would seem unwise.
“It's not a reflection of anything I've done,” Self said. “It's a reflection of having good players, period. We've had some hard-rocking guys come through there. And some guys that have developed over time and played at a really high level.
“But it's a great sense of pride or source of pride for us. Not just for me, but for everybody in our program, for our players. Our players don't want to be the team that doesn't.”
HUGGINS KNOWS WHAT TO EXPECT
West Virginia is new to the Big 12, but Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins is not, having coached one season — 2006-2007 — at Kansas State.
While he left a powerful basketball conference in the Big East, Huggins said one aspect of the new affiliation is more difficult: the road venues.
“I think the teams in the Big 12 probably have the best home court advantage of any of the major leagues in the country,” Huggins said. “We played in a lot of NBA arenas. There were a lot of teams that didn't have their own arena, so it wasn't on campus. I think it makes a huge difference.”
KRUGER: NEW BLOOD, SAME OLD BIG 12
While the Big 12 football teams have had a chance to see how the addition of TCU and West Virginia have changed the conference's competition level, Big 12 basketball teams still have a couple more months to wait.
Still, Kruger said the addition of the two schools doesn't change much at all for basketball. One difference is the loss of Missouri. Kruger used to coach in Big Eight before the conference expanded, and he said the absence of Mizzou will be “disappointing from a tradition standpoint.”
“But we bring in (TCU coach) Trent Johnson, Bob Huggins, two terrific veteran coaches that will do a great job and have their teams ready to play,” Kruger said. “So from that standpoint, the basketball standpoint, it's not going to change anything at all. Two terrific coaches.”
FORD ALREADY SEEING SMART'S IMPACT
Praises have rolled in for OSU freshman Marcus Smart, the pick for Preseason Freshman of the Year in the Big 12.
Ford said he's learning to appreciate Smart's work on a daily basis.
“Marcus, probably more than any player I've ever coached, affects a practice, affects games,” Ford said. “He's involved in every play in practice, whether it be a rebound, a loose ball, defensively making assists. He's involved in everything.
“He's the ultimate winner. He competes every drill to win every drill. He takes great pride in winning. He takes pride in his team winning. He's an extremely vocal leader. He never stops talking in practice.
“And this is from a freshman. I tell everybody, he's kind of old school. He doesn't care what position he plays, doesn't care how many points he scores. All he cares about is winning.”
By John Helsley and Stephanie Kuzydym