A Look Ahead: Guards

Obviously losing Keiton Page is going to be a tremendous blow. The "Pawnee Pistol" was the heart and soul of the 2011-12 Cowboy team, in addition to being the captain and leading scorer. But what the Cowboys have returning and who Travis Ford and his staff are bringing in should be reason enough to get excited about next year's team.

Let's start in the backcourt in part one of this two-part look at the 2012-13 Cowboys. Point guard was a sore spot for this team all season with obviously the biggest blow coming from the December defections of Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley. This position was never settled and was run at times by Page, Markel Brown and Cezar Guerrero. Page got most of the work and now he's gone.

This position is still a major question heading into next year but there certainly won't be a shortage of people vying for the job.

Naturally, Brown and Guerrero will be in the conversation. Guerrero showed flashed late in the season of understanding what it takes to play a true point guard role for Ford. His last three weeks of the season were great from a confidence-building standpoint to establish the type of work ethic and mentality that could serve him well in the offseason.

Brown is one of the most interesting possibilities here. He flourished at times running the show but struggled against higher-caliber opponents. If this is to be his role on the team, it needs to be established in an effort to get him as comfortable as possible in the role. No returning player on the roster has as much upside as Brown does here because he presents an athletic mismatch not unlike Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook or Chicago's Derrick Rose. I'm not comparing them as players, simply as difficult matchups for opposing defenses because of Brown's dynamic athleticism, size and speed.

The other options aren't on campus yet and both guaranteed contenders hail from now back-to-back Texas 5A state champion Flower Mound Marcus High School. Phil Forte is listed by recruiting services, including Scout, as a point guard. At 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, he certainly looks the part. That said, it is more likely he is being geared toward a Page-like shooting guard role. Some analysts firmly believe Forte is is the most accurate 3-point shooter in the entire 2012 class of seniors. With the ball in his hands his effectiveness would be limited on that front, especially early in his career while he adjusts to the speed and physicality of Division I basketball.

The most likely challenger is Marcus Smart. The McDonald's All-American is rated the No. 3 shooting guard in the nation but played point guard for his two-time state champion team. He is a gifted distributor and his strong build (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) allows for him to bully other guards and dictate his own path to the basket and through defenses.

He also has incredible ball handling skills. If Smart has a weakness, it would have to be his outside shooting but his driving ability and mid-range game nullify that. Playing point guard for Ford would allow for him to get more in the heart of the action and limit his exposure coming of screens on the perimeter. It would seem this strategy would benefit both OSU and Smart.

It will be interesting to watch how that develops next fall. The other option could be junior college point guard Fabyon Harris. The Cowboys are actively recruiting the 5-foot-10 College of Southern Idaho product, who is a true point guard.

Because of the uncertainty at point, it makes shooting guard difficult to project because so many players have the potential to venture between both spots, namely Brown and Smart.

Either would be effective in this role, as would Brian Williams. Williams is more of a two-three hybrid at 6-foot-5, 205-pounds but should be more locked in to the backcourt with J.P. Olukemi returning from a torn ACL. One thing is certain with Williams, he will get plenty of minutes. He was fantastic the final few months of the season and finished the year on a good note. He averaged 9.6 points per game on the year but that was up to 17.2 the final five games. Add the fact he requests the other team's toughest defensive assignment and he has a big role on this team moving forward.

Christien Sager could also factor in as a small-time role player if he continues to work on his game and maintain his work ethic. He has talent but it's uncertain how he factors in.

Obviously it's difficult to project where all these pieces will fall into place at this point but the cupboard is far from bare.

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