Brad Underwood had plenty to get accomplished when he was named Oklahoma State’s basketball coach in March. Among his top priorities were convincing the current players to remain Cowboys, putting together his coaching staff, and re-recruiting Brandon Averette.
The 5-11, 175-pound Averette originally signed in November 2015 to play basketball at Stephen F. Austin University. But when Underwood left SFA to become the Cowboys head coach last March one of his first phone calls was to the player who led all Class 6A players in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in scoring (22.6 points).
Averette was not highly recruited when he signed with Stephen F. Austin but college coaches began calling when Underwood took the OSU job. By that time it was too late, and the Cowboys head coach is glad Averette was one who flew under the radar.
“I knew what we had,” Underwood said. “Mike Boynton our on staff did an incredible job of evaluating him early on in the process. We got a commitment at SFA in the summer from him. Terrific family, terrific young man.
“I think it’s a great example of a coach doing his job in evaluating and not listening to all the so-called pundits and experts or what we call recruiting analysts because they don’t see them all. I say this all the time with recruiting, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we felt great about him. He’s obviously shown he’s a very capable player.”
Averette was outstanding in OSU’s victory over Tulsa in making his first college start Saturday with sophomore point guard Jawun Evans sidelined with a shoulder injury. He scored a career-high 17 points with three rebounds, three steals and three assists while playing a team-best 37 minutes. For his effort, Averette was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Monday.
Don’t be surprised if Averette is back in the starting lineup Wednesday night when Oklahoma State (7-2) hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-8) at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Evans is still listed as day-to-day after suffering the shoulder injury last Thursday in practice, and there’s no reason for him to play Wednesday against a UAPB team that has lost seven games in a row.
Underwood said, “Jawun is still day-to-day with his bruise. Phil (Forte) fell on his back and has a good size bruise there but that’s progressively gotten better and both of them participated at various levels of practice (Tuesday)."
Averette says there was never a doubt that he would follow Underwood and Boynton to Oklahoma State.
“Well immediately I knew I wanted to come with him because from day one, him and coach Boynton believed in me,” he said. “My recruiting process … I didn’t have a big recruiting process. At one point they were the only coaches that were talking to me, and they were the only coaches that believed in me and offered me. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to stick with those guys.”
Underwood felt the same way.
“I’m sure there were probably a bunch that tried when I left to come here, but I think he showed who he is as a person. He’s very loyal,” the Cowboys head coach said. “Mike did a great job of recruiting him at SFA, and built a tremendous relationship and I think there was comfort on their side. That wasn’t a decision on our part, he was a guy that we wanted to be a part of what we do.
“When you’re trying to establish your own identity and change your culture you want those type of people. I didn’t have one second of doubt that he was going to play as a freshman, (and) that he was going to have a tremendous career because of how hard he works. That becomes very contagious and those are the type of guys we want here at Oklahoma State.”
What exactly attracted Underwood and Boynton to recruit the high-scoring guard who led Richardson High School to a 27-7 record as a senior?
“He had the best mid-range game I’d ever seen in a high school kid. His mid-range game is spectacular, and that’s usually the last thing you develop as a guard,” Underwood said. “Tenacity, the way we guard the basketball, that’s one of the things that I looked for (in a player).
“Extremely high character. He’s got a great family. The more we dove into his recruiting, the more it was about his workouts, how much time he spends … along that note, after the Tulsa game, he played 37 minutes and cramped, he got home and Mike Boynton worked he, Thomas Dziagwa, Cameron McGriff and Lucas (N’Guessan) out for an hour and 20 minutes. That’s the culture that we knew he fit for us at Stephen F., and he’s helping establish that here. He works, and he doesn’t know anything but work.
“His athleticism is pretty spectacular. He’s a guy that will go up and dunk on you in a minute and then transition or he’s got another gear that he can get to. He plays with great change of pace, and he was a guy we thought for a very young age we thought was mature on ball screens and the way he handles them and the decisions he makes. He’s still making adjustments, getting used to size, speed, quickness at this level but every freshman in the country is doing that.”