By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State men's basketball team will open its season Thursday with an exhibition game against Ottawa (Kan.) University at 7 p.m. in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
While the Cowboys do have a handful of games under their belt from their trip to Spain, they will still need to utilize the exhibition game to prepare for the season due to the injury to sophomore Brian Williams and other players still attempting to return from injuries or illness.
“Those seem like such a long time ago,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “We’ve been so shorthanded these first two weeks and we’re going to be shorthanded Thursday night again. I don’t expect JP (Olukemi) to play or probably (Philip) Jurick to play.
“So we’re kind of redefining a few things. We didn’t have (Le’Bryan) Nash playing very much of the four spot at all, if any, in Spain and then Brian got hurt so now we're having to move him over a little bit.”
Ford said that if the game were more relevant, Olukemi and Jurick would be available to play in a limited role.
“I don’t think they’ll play Thursday, but they probably could go,” Ford said. “But it’s so day-to-day with them. They could go because I’m giving them four days off (before the game). Now if we were playing in that Puerto Rico tournament, those back-to-back games are going to be tough for JP right now. But hopefully by Big 12 play, we’ll be ready to play on pretty much a daily basis.”
The game will be the first chance for freshmen Marcus Smart and Phil Forte to get in front of the Cowboy faithful. Both of them where ill for the Homecoming & Hoops.
“I’m pretty pumped. I was actually a little devastated that I didn’t get to do the Homecoming thing with the team,” said Smart, who didn’t return to practice until Sunday. “But we’re definitely excited. ... I’m not the kind of person to just stand still, so each and every day they told me I couldn’t go at practice I was like, ‘I can’t watch this. Can I go home?’ Because I wanted to be out there playing, that’s just who I am.”
For Forte, he said the trip to Spain was huge for him in bridging the gap between the high school and college level.
“Just getting adjusted to the speed of the game and the difference between high school and Division I basketball, it’s been a big difference for me,” Forte said. “I think it just helped me get adjusted to everything.”
Both Smart and Forte admitted the nerves will be in full effect prior to Thursday’s game.
“I used to get nervous my freshman and sophomore year of high school, but ever since then it’s just been second nature and there’s been no need to be nervous,” Smart said. “I’m pretty sure that will change a little bit on Thursday.”
“They’re not here yet, but I already know by the time Thursday night comes I’m sure there will be some,” Forte said.