Cowboys Open Season

Oklahoma State opens the 2004-05 basketball season tonight with few questions. After all, the Cowboys return four starters who accounted for nearly 47 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists last season en route to the Final Four. But the one question that all Cowboy fans have entering the season is who's going to step up and play the center position?

The last time we saw this team a 7-foot-1 center named Luke Schenscher scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help Georgia Tech to a 67-65 win in a semifinal game of the Final Four. The Cowboys could not stop Schenscher, who averaged just 9.3 points a game.

The Cowboys, ranked seventh in the preseason Associated Press poll, open the season tonight against Northwestern State at Gallagher-Iba Arena still uncertain who will patrol the middle. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

The OSU coaching staff has several options as the season begins:

1) Frans Steyn, a 7-foot-2, brings a presence to the middle that the coaches like. The Cowboy coaches liked what they saw from Steyn throughout preseason practice and anticipated him making an impact. But he averaged just 2.0 points and 3.5 rebounds while averaging 16 minutes in two exhibition games.

2) Aaron Pettway, a 6-foot-10 transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, was not impressive in preseason practices. As a matter of fact, the OSU coaches had talked about redshirting him prior to playing him in the first exhibition game against USAO. In just 8 minutes of play, Pettway had 5 points, 3 rebounds, a blocked shot, a steal and an assist. But then four nights later, against Global Sports, he only played three minutes and did not score or have a rebound.

3) David Monds, a 6-foot-8, 243-pound sophomore, also played sparringly in the exhibition games. He is expected to contribute by coming off the bench, but probably is not seasoned enough to start just yet.

4) Terrence Crawford is probably the best defender and rebounder, although he's only 6-6. Crawford is "one of the most intelligent players we have on our team," Sean Sutton said. "He makes guys better when he's on the court, whether it be passing the ball, setting good screens ... Obviously, he's one of our best defenders." But, again, he's only 6-6.

5) Last, and probably the least popular option if you ask the OSU coaching staff, would be to return senior Ivan McFarlin to the center position. The 6-8 senior played there last year, avereaging 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds. But the plan throughout preseason practice was that either Steyn, Pettway or Monds would take control at the center spot, allowing McFarlin to make the move to the power forward position he is better suited to play. That, in turn, allows Joey Graham to play the small forward position.

The Cowboys don't need a dominating presence inside. But, if they hope to repeat last season's success – Final Four appearance, Big 12 Tournament championship, Big 12 regular season title and 31 victories – they are going to need some type of consistent play from their center.

Expecting Steyn, Pettway or Monds to average 18 points and 10 rebounds is not reasonable. But, expecting 15-18 minutes a game, 8-10 points and 5-6 rebounds from the center position (whether it be one person or a combination of the three) would take a lot of the pressure off McFarlin, Graham and point guard John Lucas.

Early in the season, against the likes of Northwestern State, Arkansas-Little Rock and Sam Houston State, the Cowboys can probably survive without a presence inside. But in a couple of weeks they travel to New York City to play Syracuse with 7-footer Craig Forth and 6-9 Hakim Warrick. Then Gonzaga and 6-10 Ronny Turiaf (15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds last season) come to Oklahoma City for the All-College Classic on Dec. 28.

Then, after the first of the year, Big 12 play begins. By that time, the Cowboys hope to have the answer they are looking for.

OSU (0-0) vs. Northwestern State (0-0)
Probably starting lineup
F: 14 Joey Graham (6-7, 225, Sr.)
F: 23 Ivan McFarlin (6-8, 240, Sr.)
C: 4 Frans Steyn (7-2, 289, Sr.)
G: 15 John Lucas (5-11, 165, Sr.)
G: 20 Daniel Bobik (6-5, 210, Sr.)
Off the bench
G: 5 Marcus Dove (6-7, 195, Fr.)
G: 21 Stephen Graham (6-6, 215, Sr.)
G: 24 JamesOn Curry (6-3, 190, Fr.)
F: 32 David Monds (6-8, 243, So.)
F: 42 Terrence Crawford (6-6, 230, Sr.)
C: 50 Aaron Pettway (6-10, 238, Jr.)

GoPokes Top Stories