A Look Ahead: Forwards/Centers

Perhaps no group will determine Oklahoma State's success in the 2012-13 season as the men in and around the paint. The Cowboys aren't losing anyone out of this group with Michael Cobbins, Le'Bryan Nash, J.P. Olukemi, Philip Jurick and Marek Soucek all returning at the three-through-five spots. It's only gains on this front.

Add incoming 6-foot-8 power forward Kamari Murphy to the mix and you have pretty good group to start with.

Obviously, Nash's decision to bypass the NBA Draft and return to Stillwater after a co-Big 12 freshman of the year season is a massive benefit to this team. Nash has all-world ability and his dedication in the latter part of the season shows positive signs his work ethic is catching up to his natural ability.

Adding an experienced, athletic slasher like Olukemi back into the mix at the three spot will be a tremendous asset. Olukemi's ability has never been questioned and his successful surgery to repair a torn ACL has translated into a positive rehab. That should foster his ability to return to form on schedule.

One thing that could go a long way toward the overall success of this group is whether OSU will have enough bodies in the paint to allow Nash to play small forward, his preferred position. This leads to the uncertain status of Darrell Williams.

Williams missed the 2011-12 season and half of the prior year because of unresolved legal matters. That trial is scheduled to take place in May and coach Travis Ford and his staff have shown faith by keeping him on the team and holding his scholarship.

If Williams should return, a starting front court of him and Cobbins would give the Cowboys the height and versatility inside to move Nash to his more natural role on the wing.

But herein lies the only glaring potential problem.

The possible knock on a Williams return is the logjam it creates at small forward with Nash, Olukemi and even Brian William depending on the lineup. At least two of them need to be on the floor at a time for OSU to maximize its talent across the board. This could lead to a fair amount of tinkering by Travis Ford. That said, it's a good problem to have compared to this season.

But, as most Cowboy fans recall, Williams was well on his way to becoming one of the Big 12's best big men and his potential installment in the lineup changes the dynamic of the team on both ends.

This would also allow Cobbins to move to a more natural power forward spot, which will aid to his weakside shot blocking ability and create better matchups for his frame. If Philip Jurick recovers fully from a torn Achilles tendon, he will provide a capable rebounder and shot blocker who has starting experience.

Kamari Murphy could make for a redshirt candidate if Williams returns but, if not, his athleticism and shot blocking prowess could be an instant boost off the bench. Murphy delayed college a year and went to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fl., to put on weight and work on his game. That decision resulted in scholarship offers from UConn, West Virginia, Miami (Fl.) and Georgia, among others.

Another major key will be the development of Marek Soucek. There is no doubt he struggled with the transition to American basketball but he has shown flashes of developing into a reliable role player and a mismatch on the perimeter because of his 7-foot frame.

Overall, this group as a whole from three-through-five should get better with added experience. Only Williams had Division I experience prior to the 2011-12 campaign.

With a year under their belt and an offseason to improve, the positives should become apparent early on. The upside is encouraging across the board.

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