STILLWATER — On the eve of Senior Night in Gallagher-Iba Arena, Terrel Harris and Byron Eaton sat in the stands and reminisced about what might have been. The last men standing from the country’s top-ranked recruiting class in 2005, Harris and Eaton didn’t know the whereabouts of many former classmates. Speculation ranged from "I think he’s overseas” to "I hope he ain’t in prison.” "I think about it all the time, though,” Harris said. "If we would have had all the guys stay who came here out of that recruiting class, we would have had a lot of success, I think. But it didn’t work out like that, so I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Nothing went the way I thought it was gonna go in the last four years.” The likable senior guards, both from Dallas, say the last four years have been full of life lessons, growing pains and some good times, too. "If I could, I wouldn’t change anything, because right now, I’m in a great position to be where I want to be,” Eaton said. "We’ve got a great chance of making it to the tournament this year. An NCAA bid would definitely be good for the school and for myself and Terrel.” With a win tonight over Kansas State, the Cowboys’ NCAA Tournament hopes would be alive, meaning Eaton and Harris might still achieve one of their goals. But it’s safe to say the last four years haven’t been what they expected when they committed to play for legendary OSU coach Eddie Sutton. "They went to the (Final Four) two years before, and then they went to the Sweet 16,” Eaton said. "And then, coming in, we were like the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. So how could you say no to that?” In the last four years, Harris and Eaton have had three different head coaches and 24 different scholarship teammates. They have seen highs, beating eventual national champion Kansas last season and being ranked in the Top 10 as sophomores. They’ve endured the lows, losing in the first round of the NIT the last three years and watching their coaches pushed out of the door twice. Individually, Eaton has struggled with his weight. Harris had to earn his way back onto the squad this fall after being suspended for violating team rules. "If you can go through as much as me and Byron have been through since we’ve been here and still survive and still be here, you can go through anything, I think,” Harris said. It has been an unusual journey from the beginning. Several members of the celebrated recruiting class didn’t show up to campus or were dismissed from the team before the season started. And just 23 games into Harris’ and Eaton’s OSU careers, Sutton took a leave of absence after being involved in a alcohol-related auto accident. As sophomores, under Sean Sutton, they helped the team get off to a 14-0 start, then saw things fall apart. "My sophomore year, we had great chemistry until we faced some adversity, and things just kept going different ways,” Eaton said. That collapse still bothers Harris. "We (were) 15-1,” he said. "See, something like that, ain’t no way you’re not supposed to make it to the Tournament when you’re 15-1.” Their junior year, both players were inconsistent. Despite a late run in conference play, OSU once again failed to make the NCAA Tournament. After an embarrassing loss to Southern Illinois in the first round of the NIT, Sean Sutton was fired as coach. "That’s a lot of the reasons why there wasn’t as much success over these last few years, because it was just up and down with things behind the scenes that kind of affected the team,” Harris said. "Whether it was the coaches or players, there just was a lot of distractions.” When Travis Ford was hired as coach last spring, he had doubts about both of the fourth-year seniors he was inheriting (Anthony Brown, another senior, is a junior college transfer). Right off the bat, Ford suspended Harris for a history of breaking team rules. Later, he met with Eaton and gave him an ultimatum. Ford told him, "If you don’t get a certain way or do all this other stuff, I’m not going to play you, there’s no reason to for me,” Ford said. "It’s my first year, your senior year, I have to move on.” Ford has been pleasantly surprised by Harris and Eaton ever since. "When you look at those two seniors, you couldn’t ask for more from two guys who are willing to do whatever you ask them to do,” Ford said. "It’s always been … ‘Hey, tell me what I need to do. I’m going to do it.’ That’s a great attitude, both of them. They’ve worked extremely hard.” Harris and Eaton both said that they hope to see that hard work pay off with an NCAA Tournament berth. "Eventually, I’d get over it, but it would always be in the back of my mind, I think, if I didn’t make it,” Harris said. "You got different chapters in your life, different times in your life, and (if OSU makes it) I’ll feel like this part of my life was successful. I think it will mean a lot to me.”
Kansas State at Oklahoma State→When: 6:30 p.m. today →Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater →Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1 or online at www.okstate.com →TV: ESPN2 (Cox 28)
On Page 3C: Where are they now?Only seniors Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris remain from the top-rated 2005 signing class. Find out where the rest of the players are.