Underwood, Cowboys Meet With Media

Brad Underwood and the Oklahoma State Cowboys met with the media on Monday to talk about the upcoming 2016-17 basketball season.

Brad Underwood and the Oklahoma State Cowboys meet with the media Monday afternoon to preview the 2016-17 basketball season, which begins Nov. 1 when they host Pittsburg (Kans.) State in an exhibition game at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

The Underwood era officially begins when OSU faces Campbell University on Nov. 11 inside GIA.

Here’s the transcript from Monday.

Head Coach Brad Underwood

Opening statement: "Well, it is a pleasure to be here. We are starting year one and we are 12 or 13 practices in now. I'm excited. We have a terrific locker room, we have a terrific group of young men that are working hard. They are buying into what myself and my staff are teaching and trying to implement. They have been a very committed group from day one. For that, I'm very excited. As you all know, we have a tremendous nucleus back. We didn't have to go out and replace a lot of pieces, and that is a blessing. When you take over a job and there's not a lot left. We made a few additions, they have been positive, but the nucleus of this basketball team is our veterans. Jawun Evans, freshman of the year, Phil Forte, that's one of the better back courts in America. I think that both of those young me are going to have great seasons. Leyton Hammonds, a senior who has proven it, has done it. Has been successful and has tremendous leadership. I've been very, very pleased in that we have a group of wing players. Davon Dillard, Tavarius Shine, Jeffery Carroll, have all had success at this level and I'm very excited about them. They all fit pieces of the puzzle. Front line, Leyton is going to be a part of that. Mitchell Solomon is a young man that has made huge strides over the spring and summer. I am excited about his development. We move in with a group of freshmen that are going to be a tremendous foundation for this program in the future. I think we have every position covered. We have size, we have point guard, we have guys that are extremely athletic at those positions. Those young me are going to be counted on. After 12 or 13 practices, I think they can help us. We have a long way to go. Scary to think a few weeks from now, we throw it up in here. Every coach in the country always says we need more time. We are pretty basic right now, but the majority of our time has been spent on the defensive end and trying to establish our culture. We are making strides there."

On Jawun Evans: "He is better than I thought he was and I thought he was pretty good in high school. I've said this about Jawun, he is very gifted in the fact that he sees plays before they happen, and there are not a lot of people who does that. And Jawun has an uncanny ability, and I use a cliche, "Good players make themselves better, great players make their team better." Jawun falls into that category. The biggest surprise for me with Jawun is his defense. Tremendous defender. A guy that can go pressure the ball, go hawk the ball, he has long arms, he anticipates. And he is healthy. Most importantly, he is in the best shape of he has ever been in. Spring once he was cleared and summer lifting weights, his body looks terrific. He's quicker, he's strong because of the job Jake Manzelmann has done. I'm excited. He is a very gifted player. He is right up there with the best of them."

On recruiting the fan base:: "One of the main reasons I took this job, I believe in this building. I believe in the culture and the tradition of Oklahoma State Basketball. Oklahoma State fans, when we took the job in the spring we brought young people here. The game day experience is incredible. There is very few fan bases that have more pride than the OSU fan base. For me to go out, Altus, Woodward, we hit them all. To go do that, that's only the right thing. We ask them to come out here and support us. I can't do this by myself and neither can the players. We have something extremely special. When this building is full, it's the best there is in college basketball. I believe that. I've been doing this for 30 years and I've seen a lot of them. We put people in this building, we can elevate this program, not just to the status we all want. We should be there. We are an elite program and we should act like that. We need to believe we are that. And to do that, it is putting people in seats and I know our players appreciate that and we can make this program the great basketball program it is."

On Phil Forte III: "I'm the most blessed coach on the planet. When you walk in here trying to establish a culture and having a young man who in high school learned how to work hard, learned a passion for the game. And to have him here to teach our young players, he deserves to have a good year. Phil is going to have a good year. He works. He deserves that. As a senior, it is our obligation to have Phil and Leyton going away parties that they deserve. That young man will live way beyond what he does on the court. The culture he has set for our young guys and for our program is everything I stand for. And it is everything I want Cowboy basketball to be about is hard work. Not enough superlative and adjectives to say in a positive mode about Phil. He is one of those guys that no one is talking about and they should be. That is a guy that is a 15, 14-point scorer. He is going to be one of OSU’s all-time leading three-point shooter if not the number one guy. We kid Keiton Page about his record is about to go down but Phil is a doggone good player. You put him in a backcourt with Jawun Evans, and I'm very fortunate."

Sophomore point guard Jawun Evans

On losing weight in preparation for the season: "I've lost a good 10-15 pounds. It helped a lot. I'm not getting tired as much. I just keep going and I feel faster."

On his decision to stay after Coach Underwood's hiring: "I'm glad I stayed with the coaching staff. I love them and I love the teammates that I have here. They're just making me better and making each other better every day."

On the Cowboy offense: "It's going to work for me, but also just getting my teammates open. And getting them the ball when they're open and getting them the shots they need."

On being healthy: "It feels great. I actually feel better than I did ever. My body is feeling great and I'm moving better."

On the difficulty of the recovery process: "It was very tough. It was my first time ever being injured. Just sitting over there watching my teammates go to war and I couldn't be out there to help them. It also made me a better person on and off the court. It's humbled me even more, so I just learned from it." 

On the upcoming Maui tournament: "I can't wait. It's going to be my first time going to Hawaii. We get to play against some big teams, so I just can't wait. I hope we get some beach time."

Junior forward Mitchell Solomon

On the transition from Ford to Underwood: "It's a little different. The transition isn't too crazy. We're still doing a lot of lifting and practicing, but it's going well. The team is taking well to it. Everyone has kind of bought in and we're working hard. I'm looking forward to how we bring it together."

On the intensity in practice: "Iron sharpens iron. When you're playing hard against each other, it's more of a game environment. It induces more change in you as a player and in us as a team."

On his new role in the offense: "The way our defense is, it's a little difficult to get shots in practice. But I've watched plenty of film to know that it's a big role. I'm really excited to have the ball in my hands."

On his expectations as THE big man this year: "I'll do whatever my team needs me to do. Whether that's scoring or rebounding. Some nights I may need to score and some nights I may need to open up the lane for Jawun or kick it out to Phil. Some nights people may try to crowd me, then it opens up the outside for shooters. So it all just kind of depends on what we need and how the other team plays their defense. There's a lot of different factors, but I'm excited."

On Jawun Evans: "It's incredible watching him and Brandon go after it. It seems like they'll never stop and never get tired. Watching them makes you want to keep going. But especially with Jawun, how crafty he is. He makes moves that you're just like, 'Wow. I'm glad he's on my team.' Jawun is an incredible talent. You can't guard him, it's all about slowing him down, so I'm excited to be on the court with him."

Freshman forward Cameron McGriff

On the difficulty of playing at a D-I school: "It's really hard, but I think we work harder than a lot of teams in the conference."

On the new coaching philosophy: "What I love the most is the focus on defense. It's what coach's main focus is on every day. It's not much of a learning curve, because my high school coach was a huge defensive guy, but it's a lot of new things I've learned since I've been here."

On his role on the team this year: "I want to be a hustle guy. Getting every rebound and bringing a lot of energy to every game."

On his leadership qualities: "For my junior and senior year, I was looked at to be the leader. Just bringing what I can every day, rebounding and a lot of energy. It's really humbling, but I have a lot to learn from these guys."

On what he's learned from veteran guys: "Stay poised on the court. Keep my composure, especially with road games. A lot of times it's going to be real rowdy. So just stay calm."

Senior forward Leyton Hammonds

On coach Brad Underwood's coaching manner: "I feel like with all head coaches their main goal is to create character in younger men," Hammonds said. "I feel like this year coach [Brad] Underwood is doing a great job with us and letting us know what our objective is and what we need to do and teaching us how to do it. So when we do mess up he'll get on us, but like I said, that's every coach's plan and every coach's purpose.

On being approached about taking on a leadership role this year: "Me and coach [Underwood] have talked a lot," Hammonds said. "I've been here for four years now and Phil [Forte] has been here for about 12 years, so he knows we've been through a lot here. We've seen the Big 12 multiple times, so he's come to us said you guys are going to have to help me out. These freshmen have no idea what college basketball is like, for practices and even from just college lifestyle, they have no idea what it's like. We've got to be the ones to lead them in the right direction.

On transitioning to a new style of defense: "I'd say it's going pretty well," Hammonds said. "At first, it was completely different because I've never played this style of defense before in my life. It was kind of tough for me because I really didn't catch onto it as fast as I thought I would. Now I feel like everybody, even the freshmen, have caught onto it. It's kind of hard to run our offense against each other in practice because the point is not to let your guy catch the ball."

On what is different about the new style of play: "Everybody is a little bit more up the floor," Hammonds said. "Coach [Underwood] has a term called 'being in line,' so basically if you draw a line between your man and the ball, you want to be on that line or above it and deny the pass. We're not trying to let any reversals or high post entries go through. Everything we play we're just trying to deny and create turnovers."

Senior Guard Phil Forte

On what he will miss most about being a college basketball player when the season is over: "I definitely think it's my teammates," Forte said. "Just on and off the court, that camaraderie and those relationships that you make, I think that's the one thing I'll miss the most."

On himself, Leyton Hammonds and Jawun Evans being leaders on the team: "We just do whatever Coach [Underwood] asks us to do, on and off the court," Forte said. "We have some experience playing and we have some young guys coming in who haven't really played a game yet. We're just trying to share with them what the Big 12 is like and anything that coach Underwood wants us to do."

On what he wants to do after basketball: "That's the million dollar question," Forte said. "I've thought about that and I want to coach, it's just a matter of when I want to get into that. I'm just trying to focus on this season and focus on enjoying it and having fun. It's my last chance to play basketball here, and whenever the season is over I'll evaluate where I'm at and go from there and make that decision. but right now I'm just trying to have fun and enjoy my last season."

Junior wing Tavarius Shine

On Juwan Evans: "He lost a lot of his baby fat he had, and turned it into muscle. He came in with a different mindset this year. He listens way more than he did last year."

On the treadmill: "The biggest change I have ever had. But it definitely eliminates a lot of mistakes. You think about going to the treadmill. Second day I got on it, and it's going 15 mph for a full minute at full speed. I almost fell off of it."

On differences of Underwood: "He comes in with a different mentality. He's bringing the pain every time. The practices are a little different because we are going 100 mph the whole time. He wins, so I just listen and do what he says."

On being an older guy: "It's kinda weird. I have to be more of a leader now. At the same time, I'm ready for it. I know I'm ready for it. I come in every night and try to get jumpers up. Even when I'm tired, I lead by example."

Sophomore wing Davon Dillard 

On last year: "I learned I need to humble myself a lot. Not being on the floor a lot last year, I learned to continue to work hard. Nothing's given, you gotta earn it."

This year: "This year I'm coming in with a fresh start. I just wanna build a lot of trust and faith in myself and know I can come out and play and make a big difference this year."

On Underwood: "He's a great coach. You can come in and talk to him about anything. He's done a great job with our team so far. He's built toughness. I think we'll get a lot of wins out of his offense."

On the treadmill: "I've probably been one of the guys that's been on the treadmill a lot. Better to be in shape, than out of shape."

On Mitchell Solomon: "He's gotten a lot tougher. He has more confidence in himself. He's one of those guys that has a short memory."

On Phil Forte: "Phil plays like a leader. He sets the tempo in practice playing hard, and he's a great leader for us. 

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