Since the end of the season and now approaching the end of school, Oklahoma State’s basketball roster has been ever-evolving.
And the not-so-merry-go-round continues; where it will stop, no one really knows.
Yet this much is clear: the Cowboys will look much different next season. Difficult to say better or worse, but definitely different.
OSU remains on the prowl for pieces, plugging holes for players – and recruits – who are either no longer in the plans or in limbo.
It’s a troubling issue, for sure, and not one limited to the Cowboys. Player transfers at the Division I level are at a record pace. And it’s a trend that has been escalating over the past few years, from 291 in 2011 to 455 a year ago and somewhere higher this season, according to ESPN basketball reporter Jeff Goodman, who tracks transfers as well as anybody.
And now OSU is involved.
“It’s the culture of what we’re living with in college basketball,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “People ask me, ‘What’s the answer?’ I don’t know the answer, you’ve just got to deal with what it is. You’ve got to be prepared to deal with it. You can’t dwell on it and lose focus.”
The culture is rampant at the high school and AAU levels. And it’s spreading upward to the colleges.
Almost daily, players – good players – are on the move across the country. The reasons vary, but most frequently are tied to playing time. So coaches, especially those with great needs, must stand ready to pounce, seeking opportunities to get on a player’s radar and hopefully land a visit, if not a commitment.
“It's sad that we're in that position,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo recently told the Associated Press. “I understand it and everyone wants one. If it's a fifth-year guy, I swallow it. But the underclassmen who are transferring and trying to be eligible immediately, I think it's free agency and I think it's going to hurt our game eventually.”
Ford and his staff have done just that, acting fast with USC senior and leading scorer Byron Wesley, jetting to Southern California for an audience that resulted with a visit from Wesley to Stillwater this weekend. They’ve also been in the home of prep standout Elijah Stewart, who got out of his commitment with Loyola Marymount and stands as a Top 100 prep player still uncommitted.
And there are more, a rumored many more, that Ford and his staff are checking in on, as the available names change by the day. Why? Because OSU’s roster remains in flux.
Gone: Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Brian Williams, Gary Gaskins and recruit Jared Terrell.
Smart and Brown are moving on to professional basketball, Williams bolted for more playing time. Gaskins never liked Stillwater. And Terrell asked out of his commitment to stay closer to home and assist with family matters.
Coming back: Le’Bryan Nash, Phil Forte, Michael Cobbins, Leyton Hammonds, Jeffrey Carroll and presumably Marek Soucek. Kamari Murphy appears to be in limbo, considering a transfer out, although nothing is definite.
Coming in: Bixby big man Mitch Solomon, New Orleans point guard Tyree Griffin and junior college point guard Jeff Newberry.
In limbo: High school signee Joe Burton and junior college 7-footer Anthony Allen both have work to do academically to qualify.
So for Ford and his staff, the not-so-merry-go-round continues.
“It’s a little stressful,” Ford said. “It doesn’t do any good to stress about it too long. We talk about it as college coaches all the time, in today’s game, with the transferring and the NBA stuff and all the other stuff, you’ve got to get players who are totally committed to your basketball program.
“If there’s any question, they’ve got to go. Whether they want to transfer or they don’t, you’ve got to put together a team that’s totally committed to what you want to do. We want kids who want to be a part of this.
“We’ve got a really good group coming back and some really good kids coming in. That part, chemistry wise, I’m really excited about. Whoever we put on that court is going to be totally all in.”