You might say Le'Bryan Nash proudly wears his Dallas roots on his sleeves. Permanently.
Tattooed alternately on Nash's upper arms: “South” on the right arm, “Dallas” on the left.
So when Nash and the Cowboys play SMU inside American Airlines Center Wednesday night, it'll mean something to the Oklahoma State freshman making his first trip back to his home state and hometown.
“It means a lot,” said Nash, a product of Dallas Lincoln High. “I have had people cheering me on since I was little. Just going back there showing them love and showing them a good game and having a good game for them, and just putting on for my city.”
Means something to Cowboys coach Travis Ford, too.
Ford finds many good reasons for playing a game in Dallas, from OSU's alumni influence in the area to the desire to recruit a fertile region of talent.
“The first reason is because it's a big strong alumni base,” Ford said. “I went and spoke there this past summer. More than anything, that's something I've heard from our alumni: ‘Can you get to Dallas?'”
Still, don't discount the recruiting appeal.
The area, long mined by the Mike Gundy and the football Cowboys, offers some of the nation's premium players. Ford and his staff worked Dallas to land Nash last year and have two more coming in teammates Marcus Smart and Phil Forte from nearby Flower Mound.
“There's that, too,” Ford allows.
This game specifically – tip time is 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU – also offers the Cowboys something of a hope for a fresh start.
The Cowboys, at 6-5, are losers of three straight and in danger of falling to .500 late in the nonconference schedule. There is turmoil, too, with the team losing a second point guard in a week, with Reger Dowell following Fred Gulley out the door in search of a transfer.
Dowell's departure hints at a move to Keiton Page running the point and the team. A last grasp at salvaging what has so far been a disappointing season?
This Dallas trip certainly offers intrigue.
“Come out there with a big win and help the team get back on the right track,” Nash said, “because we are on a losing streak.”
Nash admits it's not only a big night for the Cowboys, but a big night for him.
The tattoos confirm his love for his hometown. The Mavericks, the Cowboys, the Rangers – they represent all his favorite teams.
“Yes, sir. All the way,” Nash said. “Keiton didn't believe me when I got here. He thought I was trying to ride the bandwagon with the Dallas Mavericks since they made it to the finals. The Cowboys, even though they are playing the way they are right now, I am cheering them on. I want them to make it to the playoffs.
“But I always root for my city and I want my city to be represented. You can ask anybody on my team how sad I was when the Texas Rangers lost. It's a great thing coming from that city and seeing them win championships or contend for championships.”
Heading home, Nash has been inundated with ticket requests from family and friends. The spotlight he draws, while already bright, will be even more focused. Still, he said he feels no added pressure to perform.
“There are going to be a lot of eyes on me because I am from Dallas,” Nash said. “But I am just going to let the game come to me. I am the leading scorer on this team. I am not going to try to force anything. I am not going to try to go out there and get 30 points.
“My mindset is on defense and stopping people. If I score 30, I score 30. But my mindset is not scoring 30. My mindset is playing defense and getting this team some wins.”
Oklahoma State vs. SMU
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas
Radio: KXXY 96.1 FM.
Three things to know:
1. OSU is 19-6 all-time against SMU, with nine straight wins dating back to 1992 in the series.
2. The Mustangs went 1-3 in the NIT Season Tip-Off, beating only Arkansas-Pine Bluff, while losing to Colorado State, Fresno State and Oral Roberts.
3. The Cowboys are playing their fifth consecutive game outside Gallagher-Iba Arena. They've lost six straight on neutral floors, the sixth longest such streak in school history.
Oklahoma State (6-5)
Pos. - Player - Ht. - Wt. - Cl. - Pts. - Reb.
F - Le'Bryan Nash - 6-7 - Fr. - 13.1 - 5.1
F - Jéan-Paul Olukemi - 6-6 - Jr. - 9.9 - 5.2
C - Philip Jurick - 6-11 - Jr. - 1.9 - 6.5
G - Keiton Page - 5-9 - Sr. - 11.7 - 1.3*
G - Markel Brown - 6-3 - So. - 9.2 - 5.9
Pos. - Player - Ht. - Wt. - Cl. - Pts. - Reb.
F - Leslee Smith - 6-7 - Fr. - 4.5 - 5.0
F - Robert Nyakundi - 6-8 - Sr. - 16.7 - 5.3
G - London Giles - 6-3 - Jr. - 13.2 - 3.1
G - Jeremiah Samarrippas - 5-10 - So. - 5.8 - 3.5*
G - Aliaksei Patsevich - 6-4 - Sr. - 2.3 - 2.1