Brad Underwood: Player-by-Player Analysis

Oklahoma State head basketball coach Brad Underwood provides his thoughts on each of the Cowboys players, beginning with Phil Forte, Leyton Hammonds and Igor Ibaka.

Brad Underwood has now spent more than three months with his Oklahoma State basketball team. After hitting the ground running after being named the Cowboys head coach on March 22, Underwood and his staff spent June getting to know the players they inherited.

Underwood was gracious enough to visit with’s Terry Tush about his first 100 days on the job (which would have been June 29). You can read the two-part series (Part 1 and Part 2).

The Cowboys head coach also took the time to provide his thoughts on each and every players on the OSU roster. We’ll break it down by classification, beginning with the seniors. Check back for more player insights from Underwood.

Phil Forte, G
5-11, Sr.
Forte suffered a season-ending elbow injury in the third game of the 2015-16 season and missed the entire season. After redshirting last season, he returns for a fifth year. He has played in 102 games for the Cowboys and could challenge the school record for most games played in an OSU uniform (136, set by Bryant Reeves and Byron Eaton).

What are your thoughts on Phil Forte?
Underwood: Very, very excited about Phil. First of all, he’s a guy that’s going to allow us to develop our culture. I’ve told Phil, if he leads and Leyton [Hammonds] leads, we have a chance. That’s why I feel upbeat about our season because I know I have those two guys.

I mean you’re talking one of the elite shooters at the off-guard spot in America. Then you’re talking about a guy who has worked to be great. That’s a coach’s dream. To be able to coach him this year, to count on him for so much more than points, is a very positive feeling.

I would fully expect Phil to have the kind of senior year that he wants to have. We need to make he and Leyton’s senior years the year that they are excited about, and they feel good about. I empower seniors. They’ve got to learn to lead. This is their last go-around. They’ve got sweat equity – I use that term a lot – in this program. But they’ve also been great assets to me and my staff. They’ve helped us a great deal in terms of information.

He’s a wonderful young man and I’m excited about what’s going to be out in front of him this year.

Phil graduated and he could have transferred and played immediately, but he’s committed to this program.
Underwood: Phil’s got pride, and he takes a tremendous amount of pride in wearing that [OSU] jersey and playing for the name on the front. When you’re invested in something as much as he was, it didn’t matter if he’d stayed here or he’d left, he was going to start over in another system.

He can go down with his name dotted all over that [OSU basketball] record book. It just so happens he fits our system and the way we do things. We never talked about [him leaving]; it was always about the future, and let me help you meet your goals. [I told him,] things are going to be different, but that’s going to be a positive for you. That’s the approach we’ve taken from the get-go with him.

Leyton Hammonds, F
6-8, Sr.
Hammonds averaged 10.6 points and a team-best 5.1 rebounds last season, starting 24 of the 28 games he played in. He recorded the first double-double of his career (14 points, 10 rebounds) in an overtime loss to Texas Tech.

Leyton Hammonds is one person you’ll be counting on this season. What are you expecting from him?
Underwood: Again, another guy who could have left. He’s a terrific young man. He has been probably the most vocal leader. I have tremendous respect for him. He’s intelligent.

He’s a guy on the court that I’m fired up about because of his versatility.  Those guys have been very, very successful in what we do. I think he has a chance to be an elite defender. He has a tremendous personality, [and] people migrate to him. That’s a rare trait, and then he’s not afraid to vocalize it.

The weight room has been great for him. He’s adding weight, and he’s getting stronger. Again, he and Phil as upperclassmen and leaders, when young guys screw up they don’t know, so I get on the seniors for letting that happen. Those guys have bought in. There is tremendous by-in on their part to what we’re doing, and helping the young guys. We’ve got a chance because of those two guys.

Igor Ibaka, F
6-7, Sr.
The younger brother of Serge Ibaka, he only played in seven games last season after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M  Junior College.

What are you expecting to get out of Igor Ibaka?
Underwood: We haven’t really coached him. From the standpoint of unknowns, you look on film and you don’t see much. But here’s a guy that’s worked really hard, he’s bought in, he’s lifted [and] his body has changed a great deal in the last three months. He’s got some tremendous possibilities in terms of being able to help.

I’ve kind of gone in with an open mind. It’s easy sometimes when guys don’t play to just write them off, but I’m not doing that. He’s going to have every ample opportunity to be successful. But at this point and time, he’s done everything we’ve asked, he’s worked his tail off in the weight room. We’re thin up front so he’s got every opportunity to help us there.

(Editor's Note: Please check back to read what Underwood has to say about the other Cowboys, including Big 12 Freshman of the Year Jawun Evans).

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