Hoops Recruiting: Cobbins Leads Dons

The Oklahoma State basketball coaching staff is anticipating the arrival next season of Mike Cobbins, a 6-foot-8, 215-pound senior from Amarillo (Palo Duro), Texas who is ranked as the 51st-best high school player in the nation. Cobbins is the type of player who could have an immediate impact for the Cowboys when he arrives for the 2010-11 season.

Cobbins is averaging better than 15 points and more than 10 rebounds in helping lead the Palo Duro Dons to a 22-6 record and into the second round of the Class 4A playoffs in Texas. Palo Duro defeated Plainview 88-82 in a first-round game Tuesday night to advance to Friday night's second-round matchup with El Paso Chapin.

Cobbins suffered a devastating knee injury while participating in the Reebok All-American Camp last July in Philadelphia. In addition to suffering a dislocated knee cap, he had a medial patella tendon tear and a medial meniscus tear that required surgery.

But Cobbins was diligent throughout the rehabilitation process and was ready when Palo Duro opened practice in October. He has played in all of the Dons' 28 games this season with little or no side affects, Palo Duro head coach Jeff Evans says.

We caught up with Evans on Thursday to visit about Cobbins' senior season.

Go Pokes: How has Mike played this season?
Evans: He's had a good year. We haven't detected any lingering affects from his knee injury. We're really pleased with the job the orthopedic surgeon did here in Amarillo, and then the rehab they did following (it). We're real fortunate that we had an orthopedic who was very hands-on during the rehab. Instead of just assigning it to the (physical) therapist, he really stayed involved through the whole process, and took a very sports-minded approach and I think it really paid dividends. Every now and then there might be some scar tissue that moved around, and he was able to work it out and it went away pretty quick. That's only happened a couple times. The surgeon thought that might be something he would experience a lot throughout the year, and actually experience swelling after practice and after games because of some scar tissue being torn loose, but that really hasn't even been an issue. It hasn't swelled up on him and it hasn't affected his play.

Go Pokes: Has he played up to your expectations this season?
Evans: Yes, he has. At the high school level, being 6-8 and being a good player, he certainly draws a lot of attention from our opponents. Obviously he's dealt all season with people gearing their defense around him and trying to slow him down, and bring a lot of help to him when he catches the ball. He's done a great job. He's averaging slightly over 15 points and slightly over 10 rebounds. That's been very pleasing. He gets a lot of attention but he's very unselfish and creates shots for his teammates with the inside-out option. I don't know how many assists he's averaging but he's certainly kicking it out to the open shooters as well.

I think it's harder for him to score as much (this season) for a couple of reasons. Number one, we have a fairly balanced (scoring) team. We have two other guys that are scoring well also, and some kids who can hit open shots. For instance, in our playoff game (Tuesday night), we had three kids, with Mike being one of them, that all scored 17 points. We feel that makes us better when we have a balanced attack on the offensive end. Then the other reason is because people are sending so much help (to guard him) when he catches it close to the basket. He's been doing a good job of being patient when he catches it and seeing what he's got, and either attacking between two guys or kicking it out (to an open teammate).

Go Pokes:Has the Oklahoma State coaching staff been to see Mike play any this season?
Evans: Coach Ford has been here once that I know off, and I hope that I'm not forgetting another time. He came to one of our big district games against Canyon High School (on Feb. 5). It was a good game for him to watch. We played well that game. It was nice having him there. I know that Coach (Chris) Ferguson has been to one or two games as well. I may be selling them short because they may have been to more games. I know that I've visited with them on at least three occasions.

Go Pokes: You mentioned that Mike has gotten a lot of attention for opposing teams this season. Do they try to get physical with him?
Evans: He's gotten to the foul line a lot. I think people are being physical on him. He's doing a good job of using his strength. Obviously he's a tall, thin kid but a lot of times those guys are stronger than you think they are – their muscle fibers are spread out over a longer distance. He's done a good job of holding his own. He's got a good strong Y-base, and holds his ground, turning and facing to give the defense something to deal with, so he's drawn quite a bit of contact, and we've been pleased with that. He's played aggressive around the basket.

Go Pokes: How does he handle the physical contact? Does it get to him and bother him, especially over the course of an entire season?
Evans: He handles it well. I think he's mentally prepared for that aspect. He knows that's just how it's going to be. There's nothing dirty or uncalled for (being done by the opponent), and as long as that's the case, it's OK. We know teams are going to try to push him off the block and try to be physical with him. Obviously we try to prepare for that in practice. We're very physical on him in practice. His teammates definitely prepare him and possibly make the game seem easier than what practice is.

Go Pokes: What have been Mike's best games this season?
Evans: That's a good question. He's had some really good games. Early in the year, and I think this is significant because of the question of how his knee was following the injury … the third game of our year, which was literally in the first week of the season because we played three games in four days, we played Midland Lee, which is a team with good size and really good players, and he had 29 points and 16 rebounds. I thought that was important for him early because obviously he was not hampered by that summer injury. That was a good game. A big district game for us was in the middle of January (against Randle on Jan. 15), he had 28 points and 12 rebounds. That was a game that we were down 15 at the half and ended up winning by 18, so we had a 33-point turnaround in the second half, and he had a huge game. That might be his most significant outing from a statistical standpoint. We kind of had our backs against the wall at halftime and he made some big plays during that second-half run.

Go Pokes: What else does Mike give your team?
Evans: He's a good leader for us too. Off the court and in the locker room, he does the things that you need key guys to do with your team behind the scenes. I'm really proud of him for that. I think that's sometimes as important as the stats he's putting up in a game.

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