Oklahoma State basketball players and coaches will tell you Monday night is only another game.
Kansas State (20-9, 10-6 Big 12) will be in town as the two teams near the end of the regular season. OSU is riding a three-game winning streak and playing arguably its best basketball of the season.
But Monday night is more than another game.
Markel Brown will play in Gallagher-Iba Arena for the final time on Monday night.
“I’ll approach it like every game I’ve played here,” Brown said. “Go out there and play hard, play for my teammates, play for this program, just go out there and play for one another.”
He has seen a lot in his four years as a Cowboy. He was there for OSU’s win against Harvard in the NIT his freshman year. He experienced the low of a 15-win season during his sophomore year and the resurgence of the program the past two years.
Had Saturday’s Kansas game been Brown’s last at GIA, he would have ridden off into the night —literally.
The students rushed the court after OSU (19-10, 7-9) beat No. 5 Kansas. Brown crowd surfed to celebrate. It was his last time to do so, but it wasn’t his first. Brown participated in the same celebration after unranked OSU beat No. 2 Missouri his sophomore season.
Brown was ejected from that game for receiving two technical fouls. After anxiously watching his teammates pull off the upset, Brown founds his way back on the floor to enjoy the moment.
“I came back out,” Brown said. “I was nervous in the locker room the whole time. I was sitting back in the locker room, ‘Coach Ford, he’s going to get me.’
“But we were able to pull it out and I snuck back out there. I don’t know if I was supposed to or not, but I came back out and celebrated my team with the fans.”
Perhaps the best example of Brown’s role in the program’s rise is OSU’s play against Kansas, the epitome of Big 12 excellence. The Cowboys were regular blowout victims in Brown’s first few seasons.
OSU split its last four matchups with the Jayhawks, all close games. Brown scored a game-high 21 points on Saturday in what could be his last game against KU.
“Markel Brown has been a Jayhawk killer,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He’s gotten better all the time. He’s a good player. He could be a pro.”
Brown’s growth as a player has been well documented over the years. OSU coach Travis Ford recruited Brown and has seen first-hand Brown go from high-flyer to all-around star.
“I don't want to think about it (Brown’s last game at GIA),” Ford said. “I love Markel Brown. I love him as a young man. I really do. He's a young man who's been here for four years and is like a son. I love how he's improved every year and has grown as a man, grown as a player.
“He's going to graduate on time. We started to talk about that yesterday and I started to get (emotional). Markel has meant a lot to this program, and he's meant a lot to me as an individual.”