The 2019 season was the latest disappointing chapter in a book of struggles. However, it seems to be turning around for Oklahoma State basketball; with the 2020 recruiting class. The class ranks No. 4 on Rivals.com including the No. 1 overall player. That means there is light at the end of the tunnel that OSU basketball has been in for years, right?
An OSU basketball team has not made the NCAA Tournament since a first-round loss in the 2016-17 season. It has been more than a decade since OSU’s last tournament victory, 2009, 15 years since its last Sweet 16 appearance and 16 years since the last Final Four appearance.
OSU has not won a basketball title since 1946 when the school was still named Oklahoma A&M.
But where do they fit and how do they impact the team?
The Cowboys have eight guards on their roster, which fits the mold for basketball in 2020 of smaller and more shooting. The Cowboys lose two key guards in Lindy Waters and Thomas Dziagwa, but are returning Isaac Likekele, Avery Anderson, Chris Harris Jr., and walk-on Dee Mitchell at the guard positions. OSU is also bringing in No. 1 player in the nation Cade Cunningham to pair with graduate transfer Ferron Flavors, the No. 2 player in Oklahoma Rondel Walker and four-star Donovan Williams. Guard is the position group that OSU is set on. Every one of the players could see time on the court. Likekele brings driving ability to match with defense and experience. He is coming off a season that boosted him into the national spotlight despite missing a month with an illness. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He also paired that with great defense putting up 51 steals and an average plus/minus of +4.1, which led the team. Cunningham brings a great all-around game but could improve his shooting. Anderson saw considerable time in 2019 as a freshman, but his minutes will most likely decrease with the amount of guard. Harris was an early contributor for the Cowboys, but suffered a season ending knee injury in February. But could come back in 2020 and be a solid contributor off the bench. Williams brings elite shooting skills to a position that could use someone like him. His 6-foot-5 frame also provides extra height to an otherwise small roster. Flavors is a graduate transfer from California Baptist who is another elite shooter that can fill the shooting void left by Dziagwa. He shot nearly 44% from behind the arc and close to 42% from the field in the 2019 season, he averaged 13.5 points per game. Likekele and Cunningham will likely start at guard spots with Flavors as a strong sixth man candidate.
The small forward position is the position the Cowboys are the weakest at. Waters manned the position for the majority of the 2019 season, but he graduated. Luckily, the Cowboys have a commitment who is a true small forward. Matthew Alexander-Moncrieff, from Mono, Ontario, is a 6-foot-7 driver who can provide height and athleticism to a smaller core of players. Moncrieff should get the nod into the starting lineup, unless coach Mike Boynton decides to go smaller. He can also play power forward if needed. Moncrieff has a solid jumper but could improve behind the arc and mid-range. He provides solid rebounding and around the rim play to a team that lacks a lot of size.
If Boynton chooses to go smaller Flavors could stretch the three although he is smaller than normal small forwards he can easily be an option for offense, but defense could prove more difficult. Williams is another stretch option since he is bigger than most guards. He can guard most positions but would be a better fit at the the two. Keylan Boone could also play the three if he improves his jumper. He is a 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds who could match up well with other small forwards on defense.
Power forward is another big question mark for OSU. The Cowboys are only bringing in one power forward in its 2020 class. Montreal Pena is 6-foot-9 and 200 pounds from Arlington, Texas. However, with the overwhelming amount of talent on roster Pena may be a redshirt candidate with Keylan and Kalib Boone most likely getting more minutes in their sophomore campaign. Kalib Boone saw a large increase in minutes at the end of the 2019 season and could be a solid starting option at either the four or the five spots. If the Boone’s could develope their three-point shot a little more they could be dangerous pieces in a stacked Cowboy lineup. Kalib Boone did not attempt a three-point shot this season and his brother shot 12-of-35 from deep.
The OSU center position was locked down by Yor Anei for the majority of the 2019 campaign, but Jonathan Laurent, who graduated, and Kalib Boone also saw time at the center position. Anei started of the year hot winning the NIT Season Tip-Off most valuable player award but struggled after that stretch. Anei averaged more than eight points a game and nearly five rebounds per game in his sophomore year. He struggled with fouls down the stretch of the season, which caused him to see limited time in conference play. Those numbers were up a small margin from his freshman season, but not by much. He finished his freshman year averaging 7.7 points and just less than five rebounds a game. Anei’s top attribute he brings to the table is his shot blocking. In his freshman season, Anei had had 85 blocks and that number fell to 60 in his sophomore season. However, Anei’s 145 career blocks already puts him at eighth most all-time in school history. The Cowboys were 13-0 in 2020 when Anei scored in double digits. Anei should retain his starting job but will split time with Kalib Boone at the center position.
The Cowboys lost a talented group of seniors, but it’s only fitting that the highest rated recruiting class in school history takes their place inside of Gallagher Iba Arena in 2020.