Kalib Boone needed some time to shake his nerves.
Since summer, he had practiced on the maple court with his Oklahoma State men’s basketball teammates, but the rows of orange seats towering around him had been empty. As Boone sat on the bench and prepared to play in front of Cowboy fans for his first exhibition game, he held a towel and anxiously wiped the sweat dripping from his hands.
About a couple hours later, he caught a pass from Avery Anderson and smashed the ball through the hoop for his third dunk of the night. Boone’s stat line didn’t reflect any stage fright during the Cowboys’ 75-63 victory against Rogers State on Friday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena. Boone, a freshman forward from Tulsa, finished with 13 points, tying freshman Hidde Roessink as OSU’s leading scorer.
“At one point, I just started playing,” Boone said. “I let the nerves get out. … I knew (teammates) had my back if I did something bad. I just played my game.”
Boone also had a team-high six rebounds and six blocks, out-blocking sophomore Yor Anei, who became known for rejecting shots at the rim during the past season, by four. Boone said competing with Anei and senior forward Cameron McGriff in practice has accelerated his defensive progress.
McGriff also motivates Boone to work on his dunks.
“I’m always ready to put on a show to show I can jump,” Boone said. “Cam’s not the only jumper on the team. I’ve got to let that be known.”
McGriff provided the Cowboys’ first six points, including a one-handed fast break dunk. Despite McGriff's initial burst of energy, Rogers State wouldn’t easily relent. The Hillcats kept the game close and cut OSU’s lead to 39-36 with 17:37 left. At that point, the Cowboys’ only points after halftime had come from two free throws.
“(Rogers State has) a good team; they’re pretty physical inside,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “But it was also a lot of us just not having the right mentality, the right focus on making sure we’re putting bodies on bodies when the shot goes up and chasing balls.”
Despite the Cowboys’ occasional lulls, Boone helped OSU break away from the Hillcats as the second half progressed. Soon after Keylan Boone, his twin brother, made a layup, Kalib Boone threw down a one-handed dunk to give the Cowboys a 43-36 lead. For Boone's second dunk, Lindy Waters III passed the ball to Boone, setting up an alley-oop jam.
Later, with 1:45 left, Boone floated to the hoop for another alley-oop play with an assist from freshman point guard Anderson, inciting a roar from fans and extending OSU’s lead to 75-56.
As McGriff sat beside Boone in the postgame press conference, McGriff grinned and ranked Boone’s final dunk a seven out of 10.
“It was cool,” McGriff said.
After overcoming his first-game jitters, Boone can focus on the regular season. He and the Cowboys start official competition at 7 p.m. Wednesday when they host Oral Roberts. Although Boynton expected nervousness from the freshmen, the exhibition game also showed him the skills that drew him to Boone.
“It’s not just about athletic talent but what can (recruits) do that can translate to the college game,” Boynton said. “And his activity around the basket, he’s got a really, really good knack for the ball, both offensively and defensively. He’s got really good footwork on the offensive end.
“He runs really well. He doesn’t run consistently well yet, but that will come as well.”