Ivan and Tony Q&A

This is a story from the O-State Sports Report Basketball Peview issue. Order your subsciption today! <BR><BR> Tony Allen has been in Stillwater but one year, yet he's already being billed as a leader on this rebuilding Cowboys team, along with senior Ivan McFarlin. The O-State Sports Report asked John Helsley to sit down and visit with both players to talk about the season, their goals and much more.

O-State Sports Report: Ivan, how's it feel to be the old man on the team? McFarlin: I don't really consider myself an old person, yet. I try to fit in with the young guys, which are a big part of the team. I want to help them learn the ropes and let them know what we have to do to get to the next level. I feel that most of the players have so far caught on and are getting used to the coaches. Next is finding out how Oklahoma State plays, how we run the floor and play defense. As time progresses, they'll know what they need to do and everything will fall into place.

OSSR: Do you feel like you fill a major leadership role in helping along the process? McFarlin: I feel like I'm a leader in most ways. I've been here the longest, along with TC (Terrence Crawford). We've been on the teams that went to the NCAA Tournament. Me and TC and Tony, we have to be leaders and more vocal. Actually, I'm trying to be more vocal, just to let them know what they need to do.

OSSR: Tony, what did you learn from your first year here, coming in from junior college? Allen: It was a big adjustment, because a lot of the guys were bigger, stronger, faster, ran harder. Me, I was just playing freestyle, from what I knew. But as we got into the season, coach showed me how to get around obstacles on the court – double teams, traps. Use a head-fake, one dribble, pull up, things like that. That's what I worked on over the summer. I feel like my midrange shot got a little better. And I can create more off the dribble.

OSSR: So it was a good summer? Allen: Yeah, just working out. I never really worked out during a summer. I just played ball. I lifted weights this summer. And I shot. And I've got a lot of confidence right now for this upcoming season.

OSSR: Is it strange not seeing Victor Williams, Melvin Sanders and Andre Williams, guys who were such constants here for so long, as well as Cheyne Gadson, who have all moved on? McFarlin: Victor, Melvin, Andre and Cheyne were the key leaders of the team last year. They really led us from the start. We have a lot of new faces. It's sort of like a new bunch. And I think for the most part, it's pretty good. Just getting to know everybody's lifestyle and what they've been through, we're all coming together as one big family. And it's good. Those guys had their goals. Now there's new guys who need to be taught the game and a little bit of leadership. Allen: I think coach did a good job of keeping us all together this summer. We got to know each other and that played a big part in us coming together on the court. Now that we know each other, we've got a feel for each other. We were on the court playing all summer. Now it's time to get to know the offense, know the personnel, the players. I'm just happy I'm with everybody and it's been fun.

OSSR: You guys ended last season in a bitter way, losing a big lead against Syracuse, then seeing them win it all. Was it hard getting over the Syracuse loss? Allen: I don't like to think about that. Last year, we didn't focus too much on our half-court game. It was like more of a run-and-gun team. They played that zone and settled us down, even though we had strategies to work the zone. We just didn't execute it very well. I try to forget about that game as much as possible.

OSSR: Was it hard to watch them continue on? Allen: Yeah, it really was. And what made it even more surprising is they beat all the teams from the Big 12.

OSSR: Coach Sutton has talked about this group of players as such solid people. How will that play into the chemistry factor on this team? McFarlin: I think he's right. All the players on the team are good people and we all understand each other. We've been here through the summer. We know each person's tendencies and what they need to work on. Being together all summer, we spent a lot of time together, and that's something we needed, togetherness. That's something we had last year at times, but at some times we didn't. I feel this year, we have a lot of togetherness. With that kind of chemistry, it can be a great team. Allen: I like the people we have. We've got a lot of players with different personalities. Some guys, the twins (Joey and Stevie Graham) for example, they're the rhythm and blues guys. I'm a rap guy. They like the slow down, the smooth. I'm an up-tempo kind of guy. We're all different people, with different personalities, but we're all together, and it feels right.

OSSR: What have you guys done to upgrade your play this year? McFarlin: I've been working on my shot and my ball-handling and working on hopefully becoming a better defensive player. I want to progress and be the kind of player I know I can be. I want the other players on the team to really take it to me and push me hard so I can become that type of player and become an all-around leader. I want to learn by experience. Learn by the moment. Learn by the past. And I want to bring that to the team. Allen: My midrange game. Being more consistent knocking down shots. Getting others involved. And I feel if I can do that, our team will be very strong. We've got a lot of pieces to our puzzle. We don't rely on just one person. We've got a lot of sets. If I just execute when my number's called, I think we can be really good.

OSSR: As always, coach Sutton is talking about improving defense. Have you grown to expect that from coach? McFarlin: That's our first main goal, to play great defense. Offense comes when great defense comes first. I think we're working harder on defense. And with new faces, it's going to take time, but when everything comes together, it's going to be fine. Allen: You look back over the years, there haven't been any teams who just ran people off the court because of their offense. They had to play some defense. They can't score if you've got the ball. And when they get the ball, you've got to play defense.

OSSR: Ivan, we hear you've been inching back, working on adding range to your shot? McFarlin: I've been trying to, but for the time being, I'm just going to focus on 16 and 17 feet. Coach Sutton wants me to be an inside player and he wants me to go inside first. I want to extend my game and do all I can to help the team out. I can rebound and run the floor, but I want to bring more to the table. OSSR: Among the new faces, who should Cowboy fans really be on the lookout for? McFarlin: The twins, I think they're really going to come out and perform. And I really think people should watch out for Frans (Steyn). He's really improved in the time he's been here. He's beginning to learn the game.

OSSR: Ivan, do you like banging around with Frans inside? McFarlin: Not really. He's 290 pounds and I'm only 230, so that's 60 pounds. It's not fun holding him in there. But it's going to make you better. That's the kind of players you find in the Big 12 – Arthur Johnson, David Harrison, there's some big guys. You've got to be able to bow up and hold your ground. OSSR: Tony, there are legitimately six players competing for playing time at guard. What are practices like? Allen: Right now, practice is like a war. Everybody wants to fight for playing time. There's no smiley faces in practice. With me, I'm just ready to compete, because the better you play in practice the better you play in games. I know a lot of the guys know if you don't defend, you don't rebound, you turn the ball over, those are the things that could affect how much you're playing.

OSSR: How has the transition gone for John Lucas? McFarlin: I think he's really caught on to the program quickly. I'm sensing that he's starting to get a feel for the way we play, and a feel for the way we run the floor, and just getting an overall feel for the team, the players. He switched from Baylor, now he's here with new players and a new coach, new surroundings. It's going to be a lot different, but I think he's caught on very well to it. And I think he's going to come out real fine in this situation.

OSSR: It sounds like he's really been accepted here. Allen: He was accepted very well. I accepted him as soon as we found out we were getting a point guard. There was a lot of debate about who was going to play the point this year. I'm glad we got him. He's here. It's a done deal. McFarlin: He's really been accepted from the first day he came here. And we needed a point guard. That was a real good find. And I think he's a real good piece in the family.

OSSR: Tony, entering your second year at OSU, do you feel like you've come a long way from the mean streets of Chicago? Allen: I have come a long way. I'm on track to graduate. I need 12 hours after this semester. That'll make my mother proud. So I feel like I've come a long way – a long way.

OSSR: What does your mother think about how things have turned out? Allen: She's pretty proud, because at some points she probably didn't think I was going to be successful. But she still pushed me. And that's what I love about her. OSSR: Getting a degree is hard enough for somebody with a smooth upbringing. You've got to be proud of yourself. Allen: When I walk across that stage, that's going to be the big opening. Coach says it's real hectic in the real world. He always stresses that. I'm ready.

OSSR: How about this team, is it ready? Do you guys have a feel for this squad yet? Allen: To use the words from coach, I think we need to get better defensively and get control of the ball. And I think we can go far. McFarlin: We have a lot of pieces, but we need to make sure they fit, and it completes the puzzle. And all the players know their role, know what they need to do. Obviously, when that puzzle is done, we can become the team we want to be. I think we can really surprise some people this year. They have us ranked fifth or sixth in the Big 12. I really don't look at that and I don't let it bother me, but I really think we're going to surprise some people.

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