STILLWATER — Here is a look at the key storylines for the 2012-13 season for the Oklahoma State men's basketball team:
1. Mesh the young and old: In truth, old is a relative term with these Cowboys. Jéan-Paul Olukemi and Philip Jurick are the only scholarship seniors. Still, those guys and the other so-called veterans – led by Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins – are finding their chemistry with newcomers Marcus Smart, Phil Forte, Kamari Murphy and Kirby Gardner. With the rookies heavily involved, the eventual mix and mesh is critical to forming a more complete team than the ones that missed the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.
2. Play hard and rebound: Cowboys coach Travis Ford isn't so worried about scoring with this crew. There is firepower aplenty. But even before Cobbins was lost for a month to a toe injury, the Cowboys faced challenges in the paint – both in rebounding and defending. OSU finished No. 323 nationally in rebounding margin a year ago, beaten by an average of 5.8 on the boards per game. This year, the Cowboys are focused on crashing the glass with their guards to make up some of the difference. And Brown, Nash and Smart are capable.
3. Meet them in March: The past two seasons have delivered disappointment, with the Cowboys absent from NCAA Tournament play. Clearly, the desire – demand? – is to engage in March Madness. A team with two former McDonald's All-Americans (Nash and Smart) and other talented pieces should be equipped for such a return to the game's grand stage. Yes, past and present injuries have already caused problems. And OSU's lack of size remains a concern. Still, enough talent remains to make a run, especially through an in-transition Big 12.
OSU MEN'S ROSTER
Here is a breakdown of the Cowboys team:
G – Marcus Smart (6-4, Fr.): Ballyhooed recruit could be the straw that stirs the drink.
G – Markel Brown (6-3, Jr.): The mayor of Lob Stilly, Brown on the verge of a breakout.
G – Le'Bryan Nash (6-7, So.): After inconsistent debut, Nash says he's ready to turn it on.
F – Michael Cobbins (6-8, So.): Toe fracture will sideline him a month, yet a key inside element.
F – Kamari Murphy (6-8, Fr.): Hard-working forward will be asked to provide inside help early.
F – Jéan-Paul Olukemi (6-6, Sr.): When healthy, provides veteran presence and production.
G – Phil Forte (5-11, Fr.): Keiton Page's replacement as a perimeter gunner.
C – Philip Jurick (6-11, Sr.): Shot blocker and rebounder could start once fully healthy.
F – Marek Soucek (7-0, So.): Has improved shape and toughness; will be needed.
G – Kirby Gardner (6-2, Jr.): Can play the point and offer scoring help off the bench.
Next In Line
G – Christien Sager (6-3, So.): Helped the depth-depleted Cowboys a year ago.
F – Mason Cox (6-10, Sr.): Walk-on offers a big body for practices and foul troubles.
G – Ford Stuen (6-2, Fr.): Travis Ford's nephew, walk-on recruited by several Division I schools.
G – Alex Budke (6-3, So.): Son of late Cowgirls coach Kurt Budke, a walk-on transfer from St. Gregory's.
On The Mend
G – Brian Williams (6-5, So.): Projected starter will miss the season following wrist surgery.