Don't feel sorry for James Anderson. The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year could have made the unconventional decision to return to Oklahoma State for his senior season, but we all know that he made the right choice to enter the NBA Draft after leading the Cowboys back to the NCAA Tournament. If there were any doubts about that decision, those were cast out the window when the San Antonio Spurs, one of the winningest and most respected franchises in the NBA, selected Anderson with the 20th overall pick in June. Anderson and the Spurs are a perfect fit.
Why would anyone feel sorry for Anderson? Because if he had the opportunity to walk through the Cowobys' new basketball locker room this past Saturday prior to the OSU-TU football game (like I had the chance to do), then he may be kicking himself.
The new men's and women's basketball locker rooms are finished and will be turned over to the Cowboys and Cowgirls in the next few weeks. The construction phase is completed and the furnishings (chairs, tables, pool table, etc.) are all that's missing. I have not been inside the locker rooms of many basketball programs across the country but Cowboy head coach Travis Ford has and he says there will be none better than those inside Gallagher-Iba Arena.
"Us and the women's basketball program are going to have the most elite locker rooms in America. We obviously know they're important for several reasons. Obviously it helps in recruiting, it makes an incredible impact (on the players we bring in for visits). It shows a incredible commitment. It also helps with coach-ability every day for our players now," said Ford.
"Any time you can have great facilities that's just a plus. We've got one of the greatest arenas in the country. Our academic center is located inside Gallagher-Iba, our auxiliary practice gym is inside Gallagher-Iba, our weight room is in Gallagher-Iba, and now that we have one of the best locker rooms, we've got one of the best overall facilities, I believe, in America.
"If it's not the best locker room I've ever seen, then it ranks right up there. I have seen a lot of the best and I don't think anybody can beat it," added Ford.
We'd like to provide photos of the finished product but Oklahoma State officials asked that we hold off until the locker rooms are finished. Look for photos either here on the website or in Go Pokes Magazine in the near future.
2) Keiton Page: Cowboy Fans, Prepare Yourselves for Markel Brown
While conducting interviews for the upcoming Basketball Preview issue of Go Pokes Magazine (it will be delivered in mid-October, right before Homecoming & Hoops on Friday, Oct. 22), I asked several players to name the one newcomer who they believed would become a Cowboy fan favorite.
In nearly a unanimous decision, the players said that freshman guard Markel Brown from Alexandria, La., is going to be a crowd pleaser. The 6-3, 185-pound Brown was named the Louisiana Player of the Year after averaging 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals in leading Peabody Magnet to a 41-0 record and the Class 4A state championship as a senior.
But none of that mattered to Keiton Page, Marshall Moses and the other Cowboys when he arrived in Stillwater in June and began playing pickup games. The OSU veterans know better than to judge an incoming freshman on what he's done in high school.
That's why I was shocked when Page gave his answer to my question, "Which newcomer is going to become a fan favorite?"
"One that comes to my mind is Markel Brown. I've been playing basketball for a long, long time and I've been around basketball for a long time, and I've seen a lot of games and I've seen a lot of athletes, but I've never seen one jump quite as well as Markel," Page said.
"I mean he can really get off the floor; I mean a 42- or 43-inch vertical. It's unreal when he gets up in the air. If he gets a chance early in the year, at Midnight Madness if we have a dunk contest, I can see him winning over the crowd real, real quick with that because his athleticism is off the charts.
"It's unreal. I had heard about it before he got here, and how he could really jump, but you hear that about a lot of athletes, but Markel is on another level when it comes to his vertical," Page added.
Keep your eyes on Brown at Homecoming & Hoops!
3a) The Name is Jéan-Paul
For the past several years, and since arriving at Oklahoma State in January as a transfer from Vincennes junior college in Indiana, Cowboy sophomore Jéan-Paul Olukemi has gone by J.P. Olukemi.
But the new Cowboy told me that he wants to go by his given name – Jéan-Paul Olukemi (pronounced John-Paul ohh-looh-KIM-ee) – and that's how he's listed on the OSU basketball roster and in the soon-to-be-released 2010-11 basketball media guide.
"I just decided that I wanted to go by my real name," said Olukemi. "People had been calling me Gene and were messing my name up in other ways, so I decided to shorten it to J.P., and people can still call me that. But I'd like to go by Jéan-Paul."
Mr. Olukemi, if you average 15 to 18 points a game this season and shoot 50 percent from the field, I'll bet Cowboy fans will call you whatever you wish.
3b) Keiton vs. Ford
It was well documented last January that Page defeated head coach Travis Ford in the shooting contest H-O-R-S-E on the Friday night before the Cowboys' upset of No. 10-ranked Kansas State last season.
Ford says it was the first time he's ever lost to one of his players – from Oklahoma State, Masssachusetts, Eastern Kentucky or Campbellsville – since he's been a head coach.
The following excerpt is from the feature story I wrote on Page in the Basketball Preview issue of Go Pokes Magazine:
"My record is very, very, very, very good," Ford said with a smile on his face.
But on Friday night, Jan. 22, in Manhattan, Kan., he finally met his match. Page won the shooting contest with Ford the night before the Cowboys' upset victory over then No. 10 Kansas State.
"James (Anderson) beat me in a side gym over at Stillwater High School when we were having practice over there one day. I think I let James beat me, but I was really trying to beat Keiton. I'm just as competitive (as they are). I always try to beat them. I was absolutely trying to beat Keiton, and he actually beat me pretty good that day," the Cowboy head coach recalls.
Page breaks into a smile when the H-O-R-S-E game is mentioned. After several losses to his head coach, he finally broke through inside Bramlage Coliseum.
"I do (take pride in beating him) because I've been through it. Coach Ford plays everybody in H-O-R-S-E, and he breezes through everybody. I haven't seen anybody get close to beating him. He can shoot. He can really shoot the ball," said Page, acknowledging that's what made his win even more special.
Page knew better than to celebrate in front of his head coach. "I didn't let him see it, but I was pretty happy to beat him. I didn't let him see the smile, but I was pretty happy," he said.
Will there be a rematch when the Cowboys travel this season to Texas A&M, Colorado or another road game? "I'll give him one, but I'm enjoying the last victory. I know this, it'll be tough to beat him twice," said Page.
3c) Go Pokes cover
Here's a sneak peak at the cover of the Basketball Preview issue, due to be delivered to subscribers in October.