Players Say They're Ready To Play For Ford

"His idea of what a student-athlete's experience should be in college was exactly the way I feel.," new Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford said Thursday. "There is a lot that goes into that, but we talked a lot about what goes into being a student-athlete and what it means to be a student-athlete at Oklahoma State and I felt very comfortable. I felt more excited."

Ford said those words enthusiastically in front of a packed O-Club Room in the Athletic Center as he was describing reasons he decided to bring his run-and-gun basketball show to Stillwater and OKlahoma State.

The 5-foot-9 sharpshooter that called Missouri home and Norm Stewart coach as a freshman and then went home to follow Sean Sutton as the University of Kentucky point guard and play for Rick Pitino, is now taking over at Oklahoma State to coach Sean Sutton's players. Ford is as "old school" in his enthusiasm as he was in his playing days in the role of a "gym rat." In the spirit of his feeling about the experience of a student-athlete he wants to get to know his players, really get to know them.

"That is first on my agenda," said Ford to the crowd of media and Oklahoma State fans. It was a comment that brought a smile to athletic director Mike Holder's face. "I want to get to know these players off the court before I get to know them on the court, so they can get to know me."

Ford had met with the entire Cowboys basketball squad before stepping in front of the lights, cameras and microphones Thursday afternoon. The 11-year head coach has a career record of 190-146 in helping to turn around three programs, Campbellsville, Eastern Kentucky, and UMass.

The first question a player asked the new coach wasn't about his coaching or style of play but it involved his role in the movie The Sixth Man. He was in the role of Danny O'Grady, a red-haired point guard. His comedic acting aside, the players liked their first impression of Ford much like the fans and media.

"I like him a lot and he said to get ready to run a lot, and we're going to have fun," said senior-to-be point guard Byron Eaton. "He and Coach Sean (Sutton) are the same in a way in that they both have the same thoughts about us and that we can get up and down the floor. He said we will play a lot of defenses and he likes to have fun. I'm just happy and waiting to see what we are going to do this year."

"I say a nine," said senior to be Terrel Harris when asked where he would rate his first impression of Ford. "He (Byron Eaton) says 9.9 and that tells you how he's feeling. Me and Byron are the seniors and Anthony Brown and if we are feeling good then I know everybody is feeling good."

Ford fully explained to the players about his style and started into what he will expect of the players.

"I told the players that they will probably be in the best shape they have ever been in to play this, but and there is a big but to that, the but is it is a lot of fun," said Ford of his high energy and explosive style of play. "It is an incredible amount of fun to play this way."

He had more explanation and feel free to ask him about it because he does love to talk basketball, to anybody.

"We led the country last year in possessions," said Ford of his UMass team that was the runner-up in the NIT losing in the championship game to Ohio State. "People say we play very up tempo, but I like to call it aggressive. We put a lot of pressure on our opponents on both ends of the court. If we have a game on Wednesday night, I want people preparing for us on Monday and Tuesday to be stressed out all day long thinking, we've got to go against that press, you've got to get back on defense, you've got to watch their three point shooting, and they play three, four, five, or six different defenses. I like that mentality. I like being aggressive.

"When the ball goes up we tell our players don't look at the scoreboard because that is not what we're worried about," added Ford. "We're worried about how hard we're playing and we want to run people into the ground. If you look at our games with about eight minutes to go in the game we were the the team that looked like we were having the most fun and the other team was ready for the game to get over with. That is the way I like to play and I think the players have fun."

Both Eaton and Harris think that style will work and that the Cowboys will work to play it the right way in order to be successful.

"I think it will," said Eaton. "We have a lot of shooters on the team. I think that style of play will help us out a lot. I think we'll be able to play the way we want to play. The thing that is going to help us is the defense. Picking up teams earlier is going to give us a lot more transition buckets. We gotta get ready to play and get to work next week."

"I think it will be easier more than harder because this is my senior year," said Harris of conforming to the new coach. "I've been to the NIT the past three years, my first three years being here. Why not change? This is my last go round and I want to get in the NCAA. I think they (the team as a whole) feel he is a very confident coach and that is what we need, a confident coach that can lead us in the right direction."

Eaton hasn't had the best of careers, Sometimes he has appeared to be a hard sell for the past coaching staff. His success next season, his senior campaign, will depend on buying in. It would appear that Eaton got some good advice from his cousin.

"That was one of the main things I talked to my older cousin about," said Eaton when asked about buying in to the new coach. "You know, my first impression was they were going to bring in a guy that don't understand us and doesn't like the style that we've played and that might be my career or whatever, but when he came in I liked him. My cousin had told me to keep an open mind and see what he says and how he wants to play and how he's going to coach you."

Good advice and advice that should be remembered. Travis Ford appears to want a great experience for all the Cowboys as student-athletes, but he also appears to be a coach that won't let one or two spoil a good thing for the rest. The Cowboy seniors appear to be open-minded enough to keep that from happening.

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