The Cowboys aren't getting the respect normally given an NCAA Final Four team that returns four starters and two significant reserves. The Cowboys are ranked, but they are picked second in their own conference behind super power Kansas.
Right now, after three weeks of practice, associate head coach and head coach designate Sean Sutton says the Cowboys aren't playing as well as the staff had hoped they would. The veterans on the team have been inconsistent with the guards more up and the forwards more down. Sutton is happy that there is a lot of competition throughout the team for playing time, and he is very happy that his father, Eddie Sutton, while not feeling his best with the tailbone/back injuries, is improving and is coaching this team with a lot of fire.
"He's getting after them hard and this team needs that right now," said Sean Sutton. "I think he is not feeling great, but he is a lot better than he was three weeks ago. It has very little effect on his coaching. When he is there he gets after it. We have to get them ready and better maybe faster than some people thought."
Point guard John Lucas gives the team stability. The son of NBA player and coach John Lucas, he is a consensus preseason All-American coming off a season where he averaged 15 points, almost 3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
"He is a lot better, he is more comfortable," said Sean Sutton of Lucas. "He is even shooting the ball better. He is a better shooter than he was a year ago. He understands this position in this system a lot better. I think he will have an unbelievable year. The thing we want him to think about is to invest in being a better defensive player. In terms of running the offense, shooting the basketball, and understanding the system, he is playing at a very high level."
Sutton said the competition is thick between multi-talented Stevie Graham, returning starter Daniel Bobik and freshman scoring sensation JamesOn Curry for the starting role and minutes at the two guard. Graham seems to have the lead right now, but it is close.
At post the Cowboys are hoping 7-foot-2 Frans Steyn is ready to contribute. Sean Sutton says he is playing very well in practice and if he translates that to the games then he could see 18-20 minutes a game. Junior college transfer Aaron Pettway is struggling, but the coaching staff is hopeful he will be in sync by January. If the position becomes a problem then the staff has an answer and it is a good one. The post job could go to Terrence Crawford, the hardest working player on the team.
"I think he is in the best shape he has ever been in," said Sean Sutton. "He has worked harder than at anytime in his life to get his body in that kind of shape. He has such great respect from his teammates.
"He is one of the real leaders on this basketball team. His game has gotten better and he has some of his speed back. He is so smart and knows how to play and because of that he is very valuable. He is our best low-post player and the best rebounder on this basketball team. He does all the little things so well to help us win. He has an opportunity to start. If Frans doesn't earn that job then Terrence could slide into that position."
Forwards Ivan McFarlin and projected superstar Joey Graham have both been cited by the coaching staff for not playing as well was they are capable. That will have to change.
Tuesday night should put a spark into the team as they get to start playing some games with people in the seats and the score kept on the scoreboard. The change is no more touring exhibition teams like Athlete's First. Now it is small college competition and Sean Sutton thinks it will be better this way.
"I think it will be better," said Sutton. "When you play against those touring teams you play against former college players, but they don't always come in shape and they don't play together. When you play small college teams, now you play against teams that play together everyday. You are playing a team that has a system in place and will prepare you for different things. They will prepare you more for things that you will see down the road."
The projected starting lineup for tonight's exhibition game with USAO:
PG: John Lucas, 5-11, 165, Sr., Houston, Texas (15.1 ppg/2.8 rpg/4.5 apg)
SG: Stephen Graham, 6-6, 215, Sr., Brandon, Fla. (2.8 ppg/1.4 rpg/ 0.7 apg)
SF: Joey Graham, 6-7, 225, Sr., Brandon, Fla. (12.4 ppg/5.2 rpg/1.1 apg)
PF: Ivan McFarlin, 6-8, 240, Sr., Missouri City, Texas (12.2 ppg/6.7 rpg/ 1.7 apg)
C: Frans Steyn, 7-2, 289, Sr., Pretoria Gauteng, South Africa (1.6 ppg/1.6 rpg)
Basketball: Cowboys Open
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