Brown Gives OSU A New Look At Point

Cowboy coach Travis Ford had a message for Markel Brown when he called him in for a private conversation the night before Oklahoma State's loss at Iowa State.

Ford had seen his young sophomore guard's productivity, hustle and desire take a step back in recent weeks. He needed to be coached up.

"(Markel) and I had a long talk after shootaround yesterday," Ford said. "I brought him to my room in the hotel and told him, ‘You got to get back to playing the way you were the first five games of the year, six games of the year' when he was the best player on our team at that point in time. I told him, ‘You had 17 points and had 11 rebounds against Virginia Tech in Madison Square Garden and I didn't run one play for you and you scored 17 points. That's the way you got to play.'"

Brown responded against the Cyclones by doing exactly what they had discussed but he did it in an entirely different way.

The Cowboys had been searching for productive point guard play since Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell quit the team in December. And honestly, Ford had been looking for someone to take command of the position since Byron Eaton left in 2009.

Enter Markel Brown.

Ford decided to mix things up against the Cyclones and part of that plan was trying the Louisiana native at the point. It worked.

Brown finished with eight points, six rebounds and 11 assists. It was the highest individual assist total a Cowboy has posted since Eaton tallied 11 against Pitt in '09.

In fact, the it was one more assist than the Cowboys entered the game averaging as a team.

To make it even better, Brown finished with just one turnover.

"I love the patience that he played with. I loved that he was under control most of the game. That's not always the case with Markel," Ford said. "The reason I think he did that was because he had the mindset of, ‘Oh, I'm playing the point guard right now.' When we get him on the wing sometimes he feels like, ‘I got to be the guy, I have to make something happen.' So last night he had the mindset of setting people up."

His unselfish mindset was contagious. His athleticism freed up the rest of the offense and the Cowboys finished with 21 assists against nine turnovers and shot 49 percent — 59 percent in the second half when Brown ran the position almost exclusively.

"It felt good. Felt like I had 30 points," Brown said.

That selfless mentality is music to the ears of Cowboy fans and the coaching staff and the results speak for themselves.

No, the Cowboys did not win but it took a likely NCAA Tournament team a miraculous buzzer beater as the horn sounded to beat them at home. It was the most efficient 40 minutes of basketball OSU has played this season and the major reason was Brown.

"He did a great job. Eleven assists, he did a wonderful job," freshman forward LeBryan Nash said. "I think he can play the point guard position. Coach Ford always asked him if he wants to play the point guard and finally he got a chance to last night and he did great finding people in their scoring spot, finding me and KP."

Nash and Keiton Page finished with 21 each and both shot over 50 percent from the floor. As Nash mentioned, they had higher-quality looks than they were used to and it resulted in better scoring opportunities and shot selection.

"I saw Markel doing it in practice and he has been more vocal than any point guard I've had here since Byron Eaton," Ford said. "He's been more vocal than anyone as far as getting us into our plays. I kind of started watching him and he kept getting better at it and better at it. We still went into the game telling him at times you need to bring the ball up when Keiton tells you, but it got to the point where he took it upon himself that he was going to do it every time, and Keiton was more than OK with it.

"And you know, it flowed, I don't want to say it worked because we didn't win, but it produced some good things for us."

But as the Cowboys (9-9, 2-3 Big 12) prepare to host Kansas State (13-4, 2-3) today at 12:45 in Gallagher-Iba Arena, don't expect Brown to start at the point. Ford said it is more of a change-of-pace option than a full-time solution, at least right now.

"I'm not calling him our point. Keiton is our point, Markel can just move over there to give Keiton a rest and let Keiton kind of go up the floor."

It's an idea Ford had because it was a strategy Rick Pitino employed when Ford was his point guard at Kentucky.

"It's very similar to when I played. My senior year I was playing about 38.5 minutes a game and we were pressing 40," he said. "In order to get myself a break, they would let Jamal Mashburn bring the ball up the court and I would be able to get a break for six or seven seconds while they brought it up. And it really helped, it helped extensively."

It might help to keep Page fresh but the impact it had on the team could help even more in the long run. The first chance to see how much comes against the Wildcats.

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