Seven months ago, Austin Grandstaff's life had to change. He had no choice. He had to grow up. He had eyes watching him now.
It had little to do with the fact that he was getting ready to move more than 1,000 miles from home to play college basketball in the Big Ten Conference. It had almost everything to do with what he left behind in the suburb of Dallas.
Before Grandstaff left for Ohio State, his son, Knox, was born – a stirring moment for a young father still less than 20 years old. Grandstaff came home as often as he could during his first semester with the Buckeyes, sometimes stopping in for just a day so he could be with Knox, who lives with his mother and maternal grandparents. It wasn’t enough.
In December, Grandstaff announced that he would be leaving Ohio State, citing basketball reasons to some. On Saturday, Grandstaff decided to commit to transferring to Oklahoma, a school that had recruited him since he was a freshman in high school.
This time, he cited more personal reasons. He talked about Knox.
“It’s matured me a lot,” Grandstaff said of his son’s birth. “It’s made me look at everything that I’m doing and know that there are eyes on me. There’s a responsibility to be even more of a leader and do things the right way.”
On the court, Grandstaff gives the Sooners a three-point specialist who has seen the development of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins and wants to do the same. What Grandstaff gets out of Oklahoma is an expert coaching staff that allows its guards to play freely and a landing spot to be a more-involved father.
“After I left Ohio State, being close to him was the biggest priority but also finding a place where I could be utilized the right way and just get better,” Grandstaff said. “I think that Oklahoma was the perfect fit because of that.”
Grandstaff expects to enroll at Oklahoma when school begins on Jan. 19 and practice with the team. He wasn’t sure about his exact date of eligibility but expects to be eligible once Oklahoma starts Big 12 Conference play in January of next year.
After narrowing his transfer decision down to SMU and Oklahoma, two teams with one combined loss this season, Grandstaff chose the Sooners. Norman was close enough that he could be involved in Knox’s life but also a place where he could develop as a player.
“Being able to come here in the next semester and learn from those guys and go against those guys, that’ll help a lot too,” Grandstaff said.
Out of high school, the 6-foot-5 Grandstaff – a four-star recruit – was rated as the No. 60 overall player in the country and the 15th-best shooting guard in the nation.
Grandstaff averaged 4.4 points and shot 33.3 percent from behind the arc, played 11.5 minutes per game in 10 appearances this season at Ohio State and said things were starting to come together for him on the basketball court despite being stuck behind more veteran players on the roster.
He just didn’t want to miss two years of his son’s life and not be playing significant minutes. He didn’t want to miss some of the most important moments.
“He struggled with it quite a bit,” said Wes Grandstaff, Austin’s father. “He wanted to try to get home as much as possible when it was available. There was a time when he came home for just 24 hours. He wanted to try to be here as much as he could. It kind of made it difficult being so far away and not being able to juggle it.”
All recruits talk about the family-style feel at Oklahoma with Lon Kruger and his coaching staff. For Austin Grandstaff, that is the case. He has played with or against Christian James, Rashard Odomes, Jamuni McNeace and Kameron McGusty in high school or at elite showcase tournaments.
There’s a level of comfort at Oklahoma, and from Austin Grandstaff’s point of view, things are starting to come together for him. He’ll be able to practice with the Sooners as soon as he enrolls at Oklahoma in about a week.
He’ll be closer to Knox. Basketball is always and has always been a priority for Austin Grandstaff, but now it’s not the only one.
“To try to be in his life as much as I can right now: I think that really is the biggest thing,” he said.