By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Emotions will be high Saturday when the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team hosts No. 9 Kansas State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The 12:45 p.m. tipoff, which will be televised on the Big 12 Network (Suddenlink channel 11), has Big 12 Conference Championship seeding implications and the 13th-ranked Cowboys will recognize three seniors on Senior Day.
“I think the emotions are going to be pretty high,” said senior center Philip Jurick. “I’ve got my family coming in and with it being my last home game here, it kind of went by pretty fast. But we’ve got to try to put that aside and try to get a win going into the Big 12 tournament.
For Jurick, Saturday will be a culmination of a dream he didn’t know would be achievable. Graduating from East Ridge High School in Chattanooga, Tenn., the 6-foot-11, 260-pound center stayed in his hometown and attended junior college at Chattanooga State before making his way to Oklahoma State.
“Getting to a university and then getting to graduate, I’ve really gotten to grow up a lot,” Jurick said. “... I never thought I would end up in Oklahoma when I graduated high school, but I’m glad the journey was what he has been. I think it’s worked out well.”
Jean-Paul Olukemi will also be recognized Saturday. Olukemi — who came to OSU from Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana — has fallen victim to season-ending injuries this year and last year, but has still been a supportive presence for the team.
“It’s been pretty hard for him, with getting injured. But just talking to him and being around him, he’s always happy and always smiling,” Jurick said. “... He’s still a part of this team. We’re just a really close-knit team, so even though he’s not playing, he still provides emotional support.”
Oklahoma State’s third senior to be recognized will be Mason Cox, an invited walk-on to Travis Ford’s squad.
While Saturday will be a time to remember the seniors, Ford said he will discuss very little about it with his players.
“We don’t talk much about it. We’ll just honor the seniors and move on and play the game,” Ford said. “We don’t put a whole lot of emphasis into it, as far as Senior Day is concerned.”
That type of mindset is understandable. After all, OSU hosts a Kansas State squad that comes into Saturday’s game on a six-game winning streak and has a chance of winning or earning a share of the Big 12 regular season crown.