Column: Ferron Flavors Jr. is the missing piece to the puzzle

Ferron Flavors Jr. Again

Cade Cunningham, Rondel Walker, a top-5 recruiting class — it has a nice ring to it.

OSU coach Mike Boynton has put together perhaps the school’s greatest recruiting class ever. With the immense talent pool led by the potential 2021 No. 1 pick Cunningham and an already promising roster, expectations are sky-high for the Cowboys this year. But with all that talent, all the hype, they were missing something.

A little flavor. 

Ferron Flavors Jr., the graduate transfer from California Baptist, is another addition to Boynton’s tantalizing recruiting class. 

Basketball is about fit, especially in the modern era. It’s not just about throwing together a bunch of talent and seeing what happens, all the pieces need to fit together.

Don’t get me wrong, talent is key, talent is vital, but we’ve seen teams with prodigious talent go down the drain because players can’t shoot, they aren’t willing to sacrifice and/or other logistical reasons.

A backcourt of Cunningham and Isaac Likekele is immediately — from a pure talent standpoint — one of the best in the nation.

But for all the amazing things they can do, it remains to be seen just how well they can space the floor next season. 

One of OSU’s biggest problems last season was the lack of 3-point balls. If the floor starts to shrink, defenses can start to pack the paint, which makes it tough for even the gaudiest of players to score.

The first thing Flavors provides is a presence beyond the arc, which is going to be crucial as the Cowboys look to replace the shooting of Thomas Dziagwa and Lindy Waters.

Flavors is one of those players who almost appears to shoot better when he’s contested. He runs off screens well and is an excellent catch-and-shoot player, but his game goes beyond that.

Simply put, he’s a professional shot maker. He can operate as a spot-up shooter, no question, but he can work off dribble-drives and get to the rim. And when he doesn’t get to the rim, Flavors can pull up off the bounce and hit off-balance shots. He just makes tough shots.

And that sort of skillset will be a hand in glove fit with the playmaking abilities of Cunningham and Likekele.

Point guards who can slash that need floor spacing operate on drives, as to not have the defense collapse every play. When the defense does try to cheat, Cunningham and Likekele have the vision to find Flavors open at the 3-point line.

And even if it’s not open shots, even if the defense comes just a few feet off Flavors, when he receives the ball, that’s all the leverage he needs to pump fake and drive to the rim. 

Those dribble-drive that Flavors can thrive off of opportunities come from point guards who are able to penetrate and get the defense to move off — even if it’s just an inch.

OSU’s roster is talented, no question, but they’re also young.

We’ve seen it time and time again when it comes to March — experience outweighs talent. In the past decade, how many star-powered Duke and Kentucky teams have we seen fall in the tournament because of youth?

Flavors provides the leadership this team desires. Unless the Cowboys have another graduate transfer, he will be the only senior on this roster.

I had the chance to talk to Flavors’ high school coach, Yattah Reed, and he said Flavors has leadership experience going back to high school. He said Flavors will be able to guide and mentor young players because Flavors has been in that situation before.

And having that experience isn’t just some overblown narrative. When it comes down to key moments and big games, upperclassmen know what plays to make, how to stay poised and how to be big in big moments.

That radiates throughout a team — leadership pays dividends.

When I spoke to Flavors, his confidence immediately jumped out at me. He believes he’s the best shooter in the nation, and that he’s going to the NBA after this season.

That confidence is backed up by skill and an insane work ethic. He’s someone who’s been overlooked his entire career, but still, he believes in himself and works to reach his goals.

That confidence, which shouldn’t be mistaken for cockiness, will propel him far. People often forget how important that trait is in sports. If you lose your confidence, all that skill, all that talent, gets wiped away in the snap of a finger.

With such a young roster, confidence can get lost at times. To have someone with that mindset to lead while staying composed will have a contagious effect on the rest of the team. It’s an intangible that won’t show up in the box score.

Flavors has worked to get to where he is today. OSU is going to be his fourth different college, but this situation is going to be unique. Flavors has never played with an elite playmaker — now he gets two. He’s a talented guy, but his impact goes way beyond that. 

That impact will show up in the win column.

sports.ed@ocolly.com