Hoops: Williams Says Post Play Is Better

Oklahoma State fans are well aware of the difficulties the Cowboys have had in recent seasons when facing teams with outstanding post players. In recent seasons players like Frans Steyn, Jack Marlow and Jason Keep were supposed to be the second coming of Bryant "Big Country" Reeves but none turned out to be the player expected, and finished their collegiate careers somewhere other than Stillwater.

The Cowboys, with just one player (JamesOn Curry) returning with any significance experience from last season's Sweet 16 team, are once again looking for a post player who can contribute. The Cowboys aren't looking for someone to average 25 points and 15 rebounds a game – although they'd take it. What they are wanting is someone, or a combination of someones, to give them 8 to 10 points, 8 to 10 rebounds and a strong defensive presence inside.

Assistant coach Jimmy Williams works with the Cowboy post players, and he took a few minutes prior to practice Monday to visit with us after a few weeks of practice.

Go Pokes: How have the first couple weeks of practice been?
Jimmy Williams: The first couple week of practice have gone very well. The staff has been pleasantly surprised at how well it's been considering that we have a lot of new faces. Practices have been very smooth. The players have proven that they are good learners in practice. They have done some things that we didn't think they'd pick up as smoothly as they did. They've done a very good job, and we're pleased with how they're performing and their attitudes. They've been very enthusiastic.

GP: How have the three post players – Aaron Pettway, David Monds and Kenny Cooper – looked thus far?
JW: All three of them have really improved since we started practice (on Oct. 15). They've gotten better. David Monds has been playing very well. There's a few things that we're trying to get him to do better. (One is) staying in the defensive stance. He has a habit of playing high, and we want him to get lower. He's been shooting the ball very well.

GP: What does Monds bring to the court that the other two may not have?
JW: Of the three guys he's probably the best outside shooter – the high post shots and the shots from the short corner. He's probably the best shooter of those guys. He's also a very good rebounder. We want to see him a little more aggressive in the rebounding area. We want to see him playing through fatigue. Some players can still perform at a very high level when they get tired. David hasn't proven to be one of those players at this point, but he's gotten better than what he was a year ago. So we're hoping that when he gets fatigued he can play through it, not turn the ball over, get his defensive assignment taken care of ... those type of things out of him.

GP: Does he have an advantage from having been a part of the program the past two seasons?
JW: Oh yes. He knows what we're doing. I talked to him today about leadership. We expect a player like David, who has really been in the program now entering his third year, to be a leader, especially with the group of big guys. When we go into a drill we expect him to be the first guy there, and he's going to do things correctly and show by example to the other guys. We want him to do a better job of doing those type of things. We've got great leadership from coach Sutton but for a team like we have that is so young it's very important that we get leadership among the players, and David is one of those guys. He's a very bright young man and he can provide the leadership, along with JamesOn Curry.

GP: How much better is Aaron Pettway this year as compared to a year ago?
JW: He is much better. Of all the guys he's probably made the most improvement. One of the things we told Aaron, we call him AP, is that he's got to learn how to play without turning the ball over. That was a big problem last year. He had a very high percentage of turnovers in practice – we chart everything, we chart turnovers in practice, shots, the whole deal, and he has a very high percentage of turnovers. So far he's gotten those down. He's been completing shots. Last year, he'd make a good move but he would blow the layup or whatever. Now he's finishing the shots much better. He's also been a much better rebounder. We're very pleased with the progress he's made thus far, but we want him to do more and we expect him to improve even more before the season starts.

GP: What does he bring to the court that the other two don't?
JW: The thing that AP brings is he's a tremendous shot blocker. Without a doubt he's the best shot blocker on the team, and that's something that we can really use. Someone with that type of skill can really help turn the game around. But the other thing he's got to do is rebound better, and he's been doing that in practice. I saw him the other day go in a crowd and was fouled and was still able to get the rebound with two hands, something he didn't do a lot of last year. We need him to do more of that – rebound in a crowd, in a tight space and be able to come with the ball and make the pass.

GP: How is the freshman Kenny Cooper performing in practice?
JW: Kenny Cooper had his best yesterday (Sunday). In fact, he was 15 of 29 in the scrimmages throughout practice. He did very well. In fact, he might have been the best of the big men. It was his best day thus far. He's a very, very good shooter from the high post area. He's getting better with his jump hook from inside the paint. Defensively, he does a good job of getting position. We try to get him not to foul as much. He's a very physical player. He plays hard. He plays with a lot of enthusiasm. He and JamesOn Curry play with more enthusiasm than anybody on our ballclub. We told them yesterday that we hope more of you guys will play like JamesOn and Coop. They play with a lot of spirit, and are very emotional players.

GP: Is he someone that will help this season or do you expect to redshirt him?
JW: Being 17 (years old), we wish we had a season where we could redshirt him but he's been doing some very, very good things and we don't think that's going to happen. We think there's going to be a point where we need his skills. He's the most physical of the three guys, and there's a time if we're going against a big, physical center we might have to use his ability, strength and size. He's really getting better. He's made a lot of progress.

GP: Do you think you're any closer to finding that one person to step up and take command at the post position? Or will it by a position that is manned by committee?
JW: It's going to be somewhat by committee but we think AP right now is the man. We are very pleased with how he's playing. He's doing a good job in practice. We need to continue to see a carryover from practice into the games. I think we will because he's been consistently doing a good job in practice. David Monds understands what we're doing and we expect him to show some improvement from a year ago.

GP: Do you feel good about the post right now?
JW: You always wish you were better than what you are, but I think we're very pleased at this point. We just want to see more consistency out of these three guys. One day one guy will play real well. The next day another guy will play well, and the guy who played well the day before might not play well. We need more consistency out of these guys.

GP: What do you enter the season wanting from this position? Do you need 15 points and 12 rebounds a game?
JW: We told AP this, if he could rebound and block shots, play good defense and not turn the ball over we'd be very pleased. If he got six points a game, that's fine. If he can rebound, play defense and block some shots we'd be very happy. We have other guys who can score on this ballclub but we really need him to be solid defensively, we need him to be a solid rebounder and we need him not to turn the ball over when he does catch it. If he scores, that's a bonus. And I think he will because he's the type of player who will get some points off missed shots because he has the ability to do those type of things.

GP: What will people see when the Cowboys scrimmage Saturday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena?
JW: They're going to see that we're very athletic. We have more depth probably than we've ever had. It's more depth that I've seen from an Oklahoma State team since I've been watching Oklahoma State. We probably have the most overall talent that we've ever had.

GP: Which player will surprise the Cowboy fans Saturday?
JW: I think that they're going to be surprised by Terrel Harris. He wasn't a McDonald All-American and there hasn't been a lot of talk about him but he's a very, very good player. He's been playing extremely well in practice. And probably the player who's been playing the best of everyone in practice, including JamesOn Curry, is Jamaal Brown. If we have to pick an MVP of practice thus far it would be Jamaal Brown. He's been terrific. He's been shooting the ball well. He's been passing the ball well. He has learned what we've been doing very quickly. He's been solid defensively. He'd probably be the biggest surprise through practice thus far.

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