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Underwood's Arrival: How Will Players React?

New Oklahoma State head coach Brad Underwood began meeting with the Cowboys players today, and he'll be hoping that they buy in to what he's selling.

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said Saturday that even more than the hiring of the new head coach was keeping the current players and recruits in the Oklahoma State basketball program in the fold. Holder took the time to call all the players and recruits and many of their parents.

Now that role belongs to new head coach Brad Underwood. Underwood has been a proven recruiter during his coaching career, particularly in stops at Kansas State, South Carolina, and at Stephen F. Austin.

My information is that Underwood will meet with the current Cowboys players late Tuesday afternoon or early evening. It is certain that he will meet with them before the 1:30 p.m. media conference/gala in Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday.

One of the recruits, guard Thomas Dzaigwa out of Tampa (Catholic), Florida, had narrowed his choices down to Oklahoma State and SFA when he chose OSU last fall, and called Underwood to cancel a visit to SFA. Dzaigwa told all of this to Tulsa World reporter Mark Cooper. Dzaigwa was extremely complimentary of Underwood and said he was the only other coach he wanted to play for and feels fortunate that this is the coach Oklahoma State hired.

So what about all of the others? The only recruit that said he was not on board after the dismissal of Travis Ford was 6-11 post Gorjok Gak from Bradenton (Victory Rock Academy), Florida. His coach said that Gak would seek his release. The beautiful thing about that is Gak now gives Underwood an option if he looks at tape and evaluates or has evaluated Gak and is not that interested, then he can usher Gak on. I say that because some basketball recruiting reporters consider Gak a "project."

The other recruits, guard Lindy Waters III of Norman, Okla., and small forward Cameron McGriff of South Grand Prairie High School in the Metroplex in Texas, seem on board and you would think they would stay that way. I'm guessing that McGriff and Underwood crossed paths in recruiting.

Now the big question is what about the current players? Here is my guess on how that turns out. Let's start with the big two, figuratively.

Juwan Evans, PG, 6-0, So. - Evans came to play for a coach that was a point guard but now I think he will be happy to play for a coach that has won a ton of games and has an attractive offensive system that could really emphasize Evans' talents.

Phil Forte, G, 5-11, RS-Sr. - Forte has one year to make the best of it. He loves Oklahoma State and I think he will see the chance for success in Underwood's first season.

Joe Burton, SF, 6-6, Jr. - Burton is a Texas native and my guess is that would help him trust in Underwood.

Jeffrey Carroll, SF, 6-6, Jr. - Another Texas native that should be familiar with Underwood and vice versa. He will fit the playing style.

Tyree Griffin, PG, 5-10, Jr. - This will be interesting but it may have more to do with playing time and opportunity than who the coach is.

Leyton Hammonds, SF, 6-7, Sr. - The fact that he is a senior helps, and Hammonds is a key to the success. He is badly needed and could benefit from playing for Underwood.

Igor Ibaka, PF, 6-9, Sr. - Again, he is a senior and he badly needs a coach that can really tutor a big player. He should stay and get some on-court help.

Will Lienhard, F, 6-8, RS-Fr. - A walk-on but a good one and this team needs all the size it can keep or procure. He is an Oklahoma State kid as his uncle played baseball at OSU and his cousin plays baseball currently for the Cowboys. His dad is an OSU graduate that played basketball at West Ark C.C.

Tavarius Shine, G, 6-5, Jr. - Originally form Georgia, I think he got caught up in being a Cowboy the last part of the season. I think he stays.

Mitchell Solomon, F, 6-9, Jr. - He may benefit more than any other player on the team as I think he will get the kind of coaching he needs to flourish. He is a big man that has outside shooting ability. He needs confidence and someone to coach him up on how to better take advantage of his skills and have them help the team. He stays and becomes a major factor.

These are just guesses, but we will see how it all works out and we will likely know soon.


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