By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State University Athletics Department will host the sixth-annual Homecoming & Hoops event at 9 p.m. Friday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. It has become tradition for students and alumni to walk to the arena after the Walkaround and get the first look at the OSU men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The event is free with doors of Gallagher-Iba Arena opening at 8 p.m. However, everyone attending must pick up a ticket outside on either the northeast or southeast corners of Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“I think the excitement is really high from the reactions that I get throughout the community,” OSU men’s basketball coach Travis Ford said. “... I think we’ve got people excited about the program again as far as the type of men that are in it and the style of basketball we aim to play. And we have kids that will just leave it on the court every night and I think the fans appreciate that.”
Homecoming & Hoops is similar to the Midnight Madness held by other basketball programs to celebrate the unofficial kickoff to the basketball season when teams are first allowed to practice and will include intrasquad scrimmages by both men’s and women’s teams, as well as a pep rally for the Cowboy football team. Homecoming award winners will also be announced during the festivities.
Like other programs around the country, OSU will use the event as a way to showcase the college and the program to high school recruits.
“We’ll bring in some of our top recruits and bring in some of the younger kids, as well, from the junior classes and sophomore classes,” Ford said. “It is a great weekend. It’s one of the best weekends I’ve ever been a part of on any college campus. ... We always have some great success bringing in recruits during this time.”
As for the current players, fans will get to see a men’s team that returns all but one starter from last year’s squad — Pawnee native Keiton Page — but brings a highly coveted recruit in Marcus Smart.
“I think it makes a difference. There’s no question that if you bring in the kind of guys with a reputation of Le’Bryan Nash and you bring in guys like Marcus Smart ... I think it gets people excited and gives it a little bit of validity,” Ford said. “The pieces are kind of coming together. At this time last year, I don’t think ... guys didn’t quite understand or accept their roles. We didn’t know who we were. This team understands who they are and will be more about winning and not as much about how many minutes or how many points.”
While there is a lot of buzz around Smart, the Big 12 Conference preseason Freshman of the Year and an honorable mention all-conference player, as well as the return of Nash, a consensus All-Big 12 preseason first-team member, fans will also get a look at the women’s team which is coming off their WNIT championship last year.
The Cowgirls, led by coach Jim Littell, return seniors Toni Young and Linsdey Keller and junior point guard Tiffany Bias. Also returning from last year’s WNIT champion squad is Liz Donohoe, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season.