STILLWATER — Travis Ford sees what you see, Cowboys fans.
He sees much-hyped recruit Le'Bryan Nash, all but ordained as Oklahoma State's basketball savior, sending all the wrong signals with a body language that screams of disinterest.
And Ford is here to inform that all is not what it seems. In fact, Nash's vibe has been misconstrued.
“One-hundred percent,” Ford said. “I misconstrued it at first.”
Nash, according to Ford — and the Cowboys players agree — just has a laid-back personality, not unlike James Anderson when he first arrived in Stillwater.
“That's just his demeanor,” Ford said.
Now, Ford acknowledges that Nash must play harder more regularly. And he implores his freshman to provide more energy and passion and emotion into his game. And Ford hopes it starts Wednesday night, with Tulsa visiting Gallagher-Iba Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff.
But the perception that Nash doesn't care, Ford said, doesn't fly, although it's a take that's spreading among fans and has made its way all the way to the head coach's office.
“You wouldn't believe the phone calls I get,” Ford said. “Does he look like he's not interested? Does he have bad body language? Does he seem like he's moping around? He does, you can't deny that. And it does affect him to some extent.
“You can ask anybody around here, everybody loves him. He's a great young man. But his perception is read wrong.”
So Ford and his staff are working on changing the perception, which means changing Nash.
“You've been doing something for 18 years … it's going to take time,” Ford said. “And it's not because he doesn't want to. And it's not because he doesn't realize it.
“He can sit and watch film with me and say, ‘Oh, you're right.'”
Since OSU's exhibition opener against Panhandle State, when Nash posted a double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds, things haven't come so easy for the McDonald's All-American out of Dallas.
For now, he's struggling with the transition, often looking mechanical, as if he's measuring his moves, rather than simply reacting.
“It's way faster,” Nash said. “In high school, you could take your time, especially the skill level I had in high school. Now, almost everybody has the same skill level.
“I can't turn it on and off.”
And Nash admits that his confidence has taken a hit, knowing that much is expected of him to help take this team to another level.
To his credit, Nash doesn't dodge the expectations, or the idea that his energy level needs a lift. Nash, who has started four of OSU's five games, is averaging 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. But his lapses and a lack of aggressiveness got him benched in the Cowboys' last game against Virginia Tech.
“In my mind, it's getting to me,” Nash said. “I really want to do good for this school. They say I'm the highest recruit to ever come to this school. That's really pressure right there. I'm just trying to deliver.
“I think if I don't score well, my coaches and my teammates are going to be, ‘Where you at, LB? You're a main focus on this team, so you need to deliver.'”
Nash's teammates are trying to help, reassuring him and reminding him that it's typical for freshmen to experience growing pains.
“I just think it takes time, time and experience,” said senior Keiton Page. “He's going to get there. We see the type of player that LB is every day in practice. It just takes a little to translate over into games.
“But I have no doubt LB is going to get there and LB's going to be a tremendous player by midseason, doing great things for us.”
That's the plan. Eventually.
“It takes some a little bit longer than others,” Ford said. “Some McDonald's All-Americans' roles are different than others. We're asking him to come in and do a lot. And we're allowing him to do a lot. It's just that the backbone of it has to be playing hard and deserving it and it's got to become a step-by-step process at this point in time.
“He's very talented. And I love the challenge of getting it out of him.”
Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
Three things to know
*Cowboys guard Fred Gulley is doubtful after dislocating his shoulder against Stanford in New York City.
*Tulsa is coming off a 69-64 overtime loss at Missouri State.
*OSU owns a 70-37 edge over TU in a series that dates back to 1908. The teams have split the past two meetings — both in Tulsa — with the Cowboys winning 71-54 at the BOK Center a year ago.
Oklahoma State (3-2), , , , ,
Pos., Player, Ht., Cl., Pts., Reb.
F, Jéan-Paul Olukemi, , 6-6, Jr., 10.2, 4.4
C, Philip Jurick, 6-11, Jr., 2.6, 8.0
G, Cezar Guerrero, 6-0, Fr., 11.9, 2.2
G, Keiton Page, 5-9, Sr., 8.5, 1.5*
G, Markel Brown, 6-3, So., 11.4, 8.2
Tulsa (4-3), , , , ,
Pos., Player, Ht., Cl., Pts., Reb.
F, Steven Idlet, 6-11, Sr., 10.4, 5.9
C, Kodi Maduka, 7-0, So., 8.9, 7.9
G, Jordan Clarkson, 6-5, So., 15.0, 4.9
G, Tim Peete, 6-5, So, 4.1, 2.7
G, Scottie Haralson, 6-4, Jr., 11.7, 2.6