STILLWATER — With one directing Oklahoma State's men's basketball team and the other leading its women's, Travis Ford and Kurt Budke were always close.
They shared stories, discussed schemes and attended each other's games.
That's why, after a November plane crash killed Budke and three others tied to the university, Ford was so distraught, even brought to tears in initial interviews.
Now, nearly 10 months removed the tragedy, Ford is helping keep the Budke surname alive within Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Alex Budke, Kurt's oldest son, will join the Cowboys basketball team this season as a walk-on.
“I heard that he was going to be coming to OSU this semester, and we connected and I wanted to see if he wanted to walk-on,” Ford said. “It was something he definitely wanted to do, so we are excited to have him as part of the team, absolutely.”
After a great high school career at Stillwater, Alex Budke signed with St Gregory's, a NAIA program in Shawnee. Last season, as a freshman, he played in 12 games for the Cavaliers.
But emotionally, it was a rough year, with his mind stuck in Stillwater with his family.
So Alex decided, after the season, he would transfer to OSU.
“Being closer to my family (was a big reason),” Alex said. “A lot of different reasons led me back here.”
Not wanting his basketball career to end, he got a hold of Ford, one of his father's close friends.
“I knew him over the years from being up here all the time,” Alex said. “I had some people help me get in contact with him when I was still in school down at Shawnee.”
It didn't take long for Ford to agree.
“He wanted to play basketball, continue to be around the game, and I know he loves Oklahoma State,” Ford said. “I'm excited we are able to give him this opportunity and make him feel at home. We are excited he wanted to do it, and it was able to work out.”
But Ford wanted to make it clear that he wasn't just giving Alex a charity roster spot.
Last season, gutted by transfers and injuries, the Cowboys were limited on practice bodies. At one point, Ford had to get out there and run with the team.
So an extra player, especially a hardworking coach's son, was welcomed. The fact that he was a Budke — just icing on the cake.
“He obviously is a good player, a kid that understands the game and has been around the game his whole life,” Ford said. “He understands what to expect, he's been around it. He and I have sat down and talked about being a walk-on and understanding that's not an easy position. He seemed fine with it, and we are obviously happy to have him.”