At the end of the 2012-13 season Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart surprised many who follow college basketball with his decision to return to school for his sophomore season. After winning Big 12 Rookie of the Year honors, Smart had the look of a surefire lottery pick according to many NBA scouts. However that wasn’t enough to dissuade him from playing another season in Stillwater, and his decision (along with those of Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash) immediately made Travis Ford’s squad one of the favorites in the Big 12.
But there’s no guarantee that Smart would make the same decision at the end of the 2013-14 campaign. In fact, during USA Basketball’s June minicamp the sophomore stated that this would be his last season at Oklahoma State. With that in mind the Cowboys needed to reel in a point guard in their 2014 recruiting class, and on Sunday that’s exactly what happened.
According to multiple outlets New Mexico JC point guard Jeff Newberry, who began his collegiate career at Ole Miss, verbally committed to attend the Big 12 school.
Newberry, who joins shooting guard Jared Terrell in Oklahoma State’s 2014 haul, chose the Cowboys over UConn and Texas Tech. In a story written by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com, Newberry acknowledged that Smart’s status did have an impact on his decision.
Newberry didn’t play in a single game at Ole Miss, redshirting in 2011-12 before transferring to Northeast Oklahoma A&M. There, Newberry averaged 14.8 points and 4.3 assists per game with arguably his best performance coming in a 108-99 win over Eastern Oklahoma JC on February 25. In the victory Newberry accounted for 24 points (8-for-12 FG), ten assists and just one turnover.
In regards to Oklahoma State’s depth at the point guard position, this is an important commitment. With Smart seemingly headed to the next level after this season, the Cowboys will be able to pair Newberry with current freshman Stevie Clark.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.