Poke Notes from Thursday's Practice

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma State Cowboys were greeted by thunderous applause when they walked into the Ford Center for their practice session Thursday afternoon. The Cowboys and Joey Graham gave those fans something to really cheer about when they walked off the floor after their 50-minute practice sessions came to a close.

Head coach Sean Sutton instructed his starting five to run the Cowboys' offense as the final 45 seconds counted down on the scoreboard clock. The Cowboys kept running through the numerous options until Joey Graham caught a pass on the wing with about eight seconds left, he turned and took the ball to the basket, slamming down a thunderous dunk as the OSU fans cheered their approval.

It was a fun way to end the practice session, which is as much a time to show off for the fans as it is a time to practice.

Eddie Sutton has won more NCAA Tournament games (37) than any other active coach without claiming the national title. He has been to the Final Four three times but his teams have been beaten in the semifinals each year, and Sutton has never coached in a national championship game. Oklahoma State lost to Georgia Tech in the semifinals a year ago, the Cowboys lost to eventual national champion UCLA in 1995, and the Sutton-led Arkansas Razorbacks lost to Kentucky in the 1978 semifinals.

"I've been in the tournament 26 times and we've had our opportunities to maybe win a national title," said Sutton, whose teams are 18-7 in first-round NCAA Tournament games. "The team we had in '78 (at Arkansas) was a great team. Since I've been at Oklahoma State, the team in '95 that beat Alabama, Wake Forest and Massachusetts, and advanced to play UCLA. In 2000, that was a great team with (Desmond) Mason. I thought we were going to play Duke all the time, and we prepared for Duke. But Florida beat Duke, and we played poorly against Florida. And then even last year, that team was capable. I thought Pittsburgh and St. Joe were every bit as good as Georgia Tech. So there's always an element of luck involved when you get to that point.

"I've been blessed with amazing players and coaches throughout my career, and although the NCAA Tournament is very special to me, ending my career without winning a national championship would not be a big deal to me."

John Lucas and Joey Graham stressed during Thursday's news conference how much this group of Cowboys enjoys not only playing together but also hanging out with each other off the court.

"We're around each other on and off the court so much. Sometimes Joey and Stevie may cook for the whole team and we may just go over there to eat," Lucas said. "We basically know each other so well that when we're on the court, Joey and I can make eye contact and I can know exactly what he's going to do. The closer you can get to your teammates the more you understand them on the court."

Graham agrees that the Cowboys' friendships off the court have a lot to do with their success the past two seasons.

"We are like brothers. We're one big family," Joey Graham said. "We do hang out and do a lot together, like John said. We might have a get together r… we go to the movies, and we just hang out. I think one of the most important things we do as a team is we have a Bible study. It's an open session that let's everybody release their inside emotions, and we get to know their character and personalities."

A year ago JamesOn Curry didn't know where he was going to be playing college basketball after having his scholarship pulled by North Carolina coach Roy Williams. But there he was Thursday afternoon having the time of his life as the Cowboys went through their practice session at the Ford Center.

The 6-foot-3 freshman has been a major part of the Cowboys' success since being inserted into the starting lineup in late January. In the 13 games since he cracked the starting lineup, Curry is averaging 13.1 points and 3.8 assists while shooting 47.1 percent from three-point range and is playing more than 31 minutes a game.

But Sutton is just as impressed with what he has done off the court since coming to Stillwater.

"JamesOn is a wonderful human being," Sutton said. We investigated that situation back in North Carolina and there wasn't one person that didn't tell us that was out of character. He has been a model citizen and made great grades the first semester. He has been embraced by our student body and our fans, and I'm not sure he's not the most popular player on our team. But our team had something to do with it, and certainly our coaching staff had something to do with it. We embraced him from the beginning. We're very fortunate to have JamesOn because he has a chance to be a very special player."

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