|Oklahoma State takes new look to UT-Arlington|
Oklahoma State will take its first step in a rebuilding campaign when it opens the 2020-21 season on the road at UT-Arlington on Wednesday afternoon in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
The Cowboys were picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll. Oklahoma State was 18-14 overall and 7-11 in Big 12 play last season, finishing seventh in the 10-team conference.
The Cowboys lost four of their top five scorers from 2019-20, but return junior point guard Issac Likekele, who averaged 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game last year. The roster also features sophomore forwards Kalib and Keylan Boone, and second-year guards Chris Harris Jr. and Avery Anderson III.
Oklahoma State has eight freshmen and 10 players in total that are new to the program in 2020-21.
The Cowboys recruited a top-5 signing class that features highly regarded freshman Cade Cunningham, a 6-foot-8 guard from the Dallas area who was the nation's consensus No. 1 overall player. He is expected to be a one-and-done player in Stillwater.
"It's vitally important that our sophomores, plus (Likekele), are the guys who carry us early on," Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. "We have a strong freshman class but they don't really understand the sense of urgency that it takes to have success at this level yet."
The Cowboys have been put on a postseason tournament ban because of actions by former associate head coach Lamont Evans to steer players to agents and financial advisers. Oklahoma State has appealed the punishment.
UT-Arlington was 14-18 last season and finished seventh in Sun Belt Conference play with a 10-10 record. The Mavericks return nine players from last year's squad, including three starters. UT-Arlington was picked in the league's preseason poll to finish third of six teams in the Sun Belt's West Division.
UT-Arlington lost four games last season via final possession shots by its opponents, an aspect third-year coach Chris Ogden blamed on his team's lack of rebounding, especially from his backcourt.
"With the guys we've recruited in the backcourt, and the guys returning, we'll be able to rebound better than we did last year from the guard spot, which is huge," Ogden said. "We will continue to emphasize it and probably emphasize it even more this year just because it was such a weakness last year."
Mavericks' junior guard David Azore received Sun Belt preseason honors when he was named to the league's second team.
Perhaps the Mavericks' most important pickup of the offseason was standout guard Shahada Wells, who comes to Arlington from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. Wells scored 21.6 points per game and dished out six assists per contest and was one of the nation's top juco recruits after a NJCAA Division I First Team All-America season last year.
UT-Arlington also added size in the frontcourt via 6-foot-10 Georgetown transfer Grayson Carter, who redshirted last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
--Field Level Media