New Oklahoma State basketball head coach Brad Underwood is back on campus in Stillwater after a whirlwind period that saw he and his three new assistant coaches on the road recruiting, including a trip Underwood made to Istanbul, Turkey to visit 6-11 Omer Yurtseven, a prospect who is considering going to an American college rather than straight into the professional ranks.
Underwood told me that he came home on a Sunday night from recruiting a couple of weeks ago and ordered a Hideaway pizza, turned his cell phone off, and kicked back and watched an NBA playoff game for his first real decompression in most of the time he has taken over the Cowboys program.
Today, Underwood hired another staff member in his former assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin in Stephen Gentry to serve as director of player development in the Pokes program. He is also having time to catch up on other business such as Tuesday night's meeting with basketball sponsors on the Cowboy Radio Network at a Learfield (rights holder to the Cowboys) event.
Underwood spoke with us today on the heels of the announcement earlier this week that sophomore swingman Joe Burton is transferring out of the program. The 6-6 Burton waited to disclose his departure until after final exams. His leaving now has Oklahoma State at level on basketball scholarships.
Even with the release of signee Gorjok Gak, with Phil Forte returning for a fifth-year senior season and Underwood signing standout point guard Brandon Averette of Richardson, Texas, that leaves the Cowboys one over the scholarship limit.
The head coach didn't say it directly or name any names but it is no secret he is still looking for another big man to join the program immediately, so the shuffling, which he said won't be extensive, likely also is not over.
"I've been pleased," Underwood said when asked about the development of the roster and retaining players such as star point guard Juwan Evans, Forte, Leyton Hammonds, and Mitch Solomon. "You know when I took over it was a roster that was pretty full and with the young people that had been signed into the program I felt good about most of them. I had a personal relationship with some of those young people through the recruiting process. The roster was in very, very good shape.
"Then to have some guys injured coming back like Juwan Evans and Phil, and know they were on the mend was a very good development. We had the opportunity to fill one spot and ideally we'd like a front court player. The world is a big place and we are literally scouring the world maps to find one more big (player) to give us some depth. I feel very good about our perimeter play and the way they have developed in workouts so far and have really gotten after the weight room."
Now Underwood is glad for the time on campus, but he made it clear that even while in the office they are still working recruiting and that the door won't have a chance to hit them on the backside when the July evaluation period opens up.
"When you take over a job in the spring it is April and that is a recruiting month, it is the first thing you do," Underwood said. "We had minimal scholarships to fill with the current class. There wasn't much play there and there is not a lot of players left out there to get. Our main emphasis of our staff has been to get going with '17 and '18 (recruits). Even kids in the 2019 class and establishing that base in recruiting and we are trying to get ourselves in position to have some tremendous recruiting classes."
Underwood hinted that with visits now being able to be taken at this time that he and his staff will welcome in some really talented player for official visits before they even head out on the road again in July.
He was on the road last week in Phoenix with athletic director Mike Holder, head football coach Mike Gundy, senior women's administrator Karen Hancock, and women's basketball head coach Jim Littell for the Big 12 meetings. Expansion was a main topic. While he is interested and did enjoy being around a group of Big 12 basketball coaches he said are good guys that truly respect and like each other, his focus in more directed internally right now.
"At some point maybe this summer I sit down, study, and become a little more strong in my opinions on some of those issues like expansion, but right now I'm just trying to worry about Oklahoma State basketball and then I will dive into some of those other issues as time allows," Underwood said.
Time, effort, energy, that is where it seems 99 percent of Underwood has been devoted since taking the job on March 22.