For most college program’s late in February and into March, the way practices and training are handle usually change. Practices typically get a little bit shorter, and running and lifting sessions get a little bit lighter. But for Oklahoma State, it’s been business as usually. If anything, they may have gotten a little bit tougher. A little bit longer and little bit more intense. When asked about being fresh and well-conditioned late in February and on into March, Coach Underwood gave the credit to his strength and conditioning staff, “Jake Manzelmann, our weight program, our attention to nutrition, our commitment to, we take a lot of pride, we talk about it a lot. Being the best team in February and March. We’re right there. We were that when we were at Kansas State, when we were that when we were at SFA. Teams quit lifting, teams quit practicing as hard, as long. We don’t.”.
We were also able to talk to senior Leyton Hammonds and Jawun Evans and they were saying the same things. That the intensity and level of difficulty hasn’t changed since the summer. “I’ve seen us grow mentally and physically” said Evans, “We out there fighting hard. Every day we come to practice ready. You know, we practice like we practiced at the beginning of the year when we first got here. So, I mean, nothing has changed and I feel like that’s making us better every day.
Most players typically don’t go through different coaches during their playing careers at schools. But when they do, things can be drastically different. And if you look at this Oklahoma State roster, only a few of the guys experienced the change. Evans experienced the change, but being hurt during a portion of the season, has a smaller sample size. Now for senior Leyton Hammonds, he had three years of former head coach Travis Ford and his system. And judging by what Hammonds had to say, the change has been drastic. But for the better, “It’s kind of just spun us around because, I mean, we thought we were playing hard last year. And it’s kind of like an eye opener for me because, I was here for three years before and I just didn’t realize that my body could be pushed to a whole other level that hasn’t been pushed.” said Hammonds, “I mean, I just look back at it now and I’m just so thankful that Coach Holder hired him (Underwood) to be our coach and for our season to end up this way. It’s just a blessing.”
The Cowboys may have lost the last two games of the regular season, but one game was on the road at one of the toughest arenas in the country to play in, the Hilton Coliseum, against a top 25 opponent in Iowa State. And the other game was against the number one team in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks and the Big 12 player of the year and possible NCAA player of the year, point guard Frank Mason. And the Cowboys only lost those two games by a combined eight points. Now, if you asked me, I’d say that conditioning had a LOT to do with it.