The Oklahoma State Cowboys officially tipped off the basketball season under first-year head coach Brad Underwood with the first practice early Saturday morning.
“It was good, a lot of excitement,” said fifth-year senior Phil Forte, who is returning from a season-ending elbow injury which limited him to the first three games a year ago. “The first day [of practice] is always fun to get out there on the court. Just kind of keeping that enthusiasm, that energy throughout the season. It’s easy to come out here the first day and play hard and get after, so the challenge is keeping that energy and focus from this point moving forward.”
Underwood, whose Stephen F. Austin University teams were 89-14 the past three seasons, said he was so excited about the first day of practice that he awoke early and couldn’t go back to sleep.
“I’m a kid in a candy store. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I get to do this,” he said. “I woke up at 4:30 this morning and said, ‘Man, maybe I can get another 30 minutes.’ I just jumped right out of bed.
“It’s exciting. I love practice. I thrive in practices, it’s my favorite thing about what I get to do every day. And Day 1 is always special. Yeah, I was that kid in the candy store, at 52 years old.”
Eddie Sutton and Henry Iba would be pleased with Underwood’s focus the first two days of practice.
“We went all defense today. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow in practice,” the Cowboys coach said. “We’re going to become a very good defensive team. We’ve got tremendous athleticism and we have to maximize effort. And I thought our guys did that today. I was very, very pleased with their sustainability and their trying to do what we’re asking them to do.”
Underwood knows that the Cowboys won’t be the most talented team in the Big 12 this season, but believes that his team won’t be pushed around.
“We talk about this a lot, we’re going to be everyday guys. We have to show up and play consistently hard every day. We maximize effort,” he said. “And it’s about trust and being selfless. It’s about a commitment to each other. That works, not only in the locker room or everyday life, but it works on the court as well. If we can build trust in each other on the defensive end – we’re going to be about toughness, we’re going to be about effort, all those things – but if we can become selfless and play with maximum effort, we’re going to give ourselves a chance on most nights.”