The evolution of Michael Cobbins
Travis Ford knew Michael Cobbins had to make an impact for OSU to be successful.
“Michael Cobbins has got to affect the game,” Ford said at basketball media day before the season. “He can’t just be out there.
“When you’re the starting post of a Big 12 team, you have to be a force. You have to be a presence.”
Looking back, it’s clear Cobbins has done everything asked of him, and then some.
Sunday, Cobbins was named to the Big 12 All-Defense team and was also an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selection. An impact, indeed.
Making a name
After healing from an early-season foot injury that kept him out of the starting lineup until late January, Cobbins has been a catalyst for the Cowboys. In conference play, Cobbins is averaging 7.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
He is far from the biggest star on the Cowboys, but the contribution from Cobbins is one of the key reasons for the Cowboys’ No. 14 national ranking.
Don’t believe it? Ask OSU guard Markel Brown.
“Mike does a lot of small things that no one notices like hedging screens,” Brown said. “Mike’s worked hard. He deserves it. I couldn’t be more happy for him getting that honor.”
Cobbins reputation as a forceful inside defender has quickly spread across the Big 12. He’s made a name for himself outside of Stillwater with multiple big-time blocks making the SportsCenter highlight reels.
“One of the things Michael is really good at is he’s a versatile defender,” Ford said. “He can guard a lot of different people on the floor, and then can protect the rim because he understands shot blocking. He understands timing; he’s long. That is definitely something that we think is a strength to his game now—defensively, he can make a difference for us.”
That success has led to a new Michael Cobbins. He’s even developed his own swagger, often paying homage to NBA great Dikembe Mutombo by wagging his index finger to the delight of the crowd after a big block.
“(The biggest difference) is my presence being out there on the court,” Cobbins said. “Being able to affect the game in different ways. Being something the other team needs to worry about.”
But none of this came unmerited for Cobbins.
Climb to the top
Cobbins came to Oklahoma State as a 6-foot-8-inches, 185-pound prospect from Palo Duro High School — the only real basketball power in the Texas Panhandle.
Skinny as a rail, he wasn’t ready to compete at a Big 12 level. He redshirted his first year, but took advantage of the chance to sit back and learn from older big men such as Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim.
For Cobbins, that mentorship played a large role in his development.
“He’s grown a lot,” Brown said. “He’s been here just as long as me. He knows a lot. He played with Marshall Moses and Matt Pilgrim and everybody. He’s learned a lot from those guys.”
Cobbins said he still talks to both Moses and Pilgrim often. Last season, he got a chance to put what he learned into action.
“Just learning from them in practice, going up against them, that just prepared me for this,” Cobbins said.
After taking in six protein shakes a day, Cobbins gained 30 pounds before the 2011-12 season, slowly transforming his body into that of a Big 12 athlete.
Although his game was not polished, Cobbins added a force on defense for a Cowboys squad that was hampered by injuries.
Ford said the experience from last season was critical for Cobbins.
“We knew the lumps we were taking last year, some of those guys, the experience was going to pay off for them,” Ford said. “Whether it be Mike Cobbins, Le’Bryan Nash, Brian Williams — all these guys were thrown into the fire for the first time, and they all learned very valuable experience, very valuable lessons, that you can see all of them have improved in their game.”
The next level
This season has been a huge leap for Cobbins. The skinny kid now stands at closer to 6-foot-10-inches and weighs 220 pounds. He’s proven himself as one of the best post players in the conference.
Still, Ford said there is plenty more for Cobbins to achieve in the future.
“His next progression is scoring, and that will come,” Ford said. “I think by this time next year, he’ll be definitely a double-digit scorer.”
And it doesn’t stop there.
“I think Mike Cobbins is a guy, that by the time his senior year is done, is a young man that hopefully — if he continues to get stronger — has a chance to play at the next level,” Ford said.
But Cobbins is also the type of player who understands there is more than basketball. Cobbins already has a plan in mind: going into business with his family’s barbecue sauce, labeled “Hap’s” for his grandfather, who Cobbins said was always happy.
More than anything, this reflects the coming-of-age for Michael Cobbins. He has become just as much a man off the court as he has on it.
“Michael’s got an incredible head on his shoulders,” Ford said on Feb. 12. “He’s a very mature individual, always has been from the time he got here. He’s a very happy-go-lucky-guy. I’ve never, ever seen Michael Cobbins in a bad mood.
“For him to fully understand what he wants to do does not surprise me. He’s a very mature, very responsible guy.”
UP NEXT: OSU Against Baylor
Where: Kansas City, Mo.
When: Thursday at 8:30 p.m.