STILLWATER — Houston Alief Taylor coach Jody D. Jordan calls it “Michael Jordan Syndrome.”
Kennen Brown, a 6-4 receiver, wanted to haul in the football.
Teammate Chris Hardeman, a speedy and athletic defensive back, wanted to prevent Brown from catching it.
“They help other guys around them get better,” Jordan said.
And those practice battles will continue at the next level, as both Brown and Hardeman will sign with Oklahoma State on Wednesday and headline a strong group of Houston-area players that will join the Cowboys for the 2014 season.
The others: Aldine Eisenhower's Trevion Roberts, a three-star “athlete” projected to play defensive back; Clear Lake's Matthew Mucha, a 6-6 offensive lineman rated a three-star prospect; and a pair of three-star linebackers in Pearland's Justin Phillips and Spring Klein Oak's Josh Mabin.
Houston has traditionally been rich recruiting ground for OSU during Mike Gundy's tenure, particularly when longtime assistant Joe DeForest was on staff. Now, it's often the territory of cornerbacks coach Van Malone, who is from the area and began his coaching career at the high school level there.
“I don't know about other (high) schools,” Jordan said, “but (OSU brings) coaches in and they come and visit with the kids. They come in the spring. Just a high visibility in building a relationship with those kids that goes a long way.
“In this day and age, with the technology and everything, I don't think it's a big deal to say, ‘Hey, I'll just go.' It's not a big deal to go out of state or another part of the country.”
In Hardeman (5-9, 178 pounds), the Cowboys get the son of an Alief Taylor assistant coach who has track speed. He qualified for regionals in the 100-meter dash as a freshman, then became a football starter the following fall.
Big-time programs such as LSU, Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA quickly took notice of that supreme athleticism and offered. LSU earned an early commitment. But following a visit, Hardeman determined that school wasn't the right fit.
Brown, a team jokester who's displayed big-play ability since his sophomore season, also drew oodles of recruiting interest from schools like Florida, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin.
OSU, of course, was also in play for both.
Brown and Hardeman were not a package deal. But they swooped through both Norman and Stillwater together during fall camp in August. Both came away impressed. Both committed on the same day.
“They just liked the atmosphere, they loved Coach Gundy,” Jordan said. “It just kind of clicked for them.”
Brown joins two other receivers in the 2014 class in Chris Lacy from DeSoto, Texas, and James Washington from Stamford, Texas. At defensive back, Hardeman joins Roberts, Ramon Richards of San Antonio (Texas) Brackenridge, Dylan Harding of Jenks and Juwan Offray of New Orleans Edna Karr.
When they sign their letters of intent, Brown and Hardeman will officially help keep the Houston pipeline going.
Then they'll keep giving each other Michael Jordan Syndrome when they arrive in Stillwater this summer.
And, with multiple key departures at both receiver and cornerback from OSU's 2013 squad, perhaps Brown and Hardeman will see the field right away in 2014.
“That's the kind of kids they are,” Jordan said. “They're gonna step right in. They're not gonna sit back. They're gonna jump in there on the drills. They want to be first. They want to be seen.
“Kennen wants the ball, and Chris wants him to keep him from getting the ball.”