Freshman Avery Anderson has been a bit of spark to the struggling Oklahoma State men’s basketball offense in the first three Big 12 Conference games this season.
The Justin, Texas, native who averaged 22.7 points per game last year as a high school senior took a while to find his rhythm offensively during the first semester of his college career.
Anderson had only a single double-digit scoring game in the nonconference, and it was a 16-point showing in a 20-point loss to Minnesota. In the four games since, he’s had three of his five-highest scoring games this season.
The 6-foot-2 point guard has scored nine, eight and eight points in three Big 12 games. Anderson shot 11 of 27 from the field in those games, but 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
Anderson admitted last week’s home game against West Virginia was the most physical game he’s ever played in. Yet, he admitted he’s beginning to feel more comfortable on the court.
However, his focus is on helping the Cowboys (9-6 overall, 0-3 Big 12) try to get a win.
“Right now, I’ve been doing whatever I can to help my team win,” Anderson said. “Whether that’s on the defensive end or trying to score, I’m just trying to help my team get back to what we were doing.
“Coming off the bench, I have to bring the spark. Whatever the team needs me to do, that’s what I’m willing to do.”
Although Anderson took the humble approach when talking about his role on the team, his numbers tell differently. In the Cowboys’ three conference contests, Anderson has been one of the three-highest scorers during a stretch in which the OSU offense has struggled.
Only seniors Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters scored equal or better during the stretch where OSU scored only 131 points in three games.
“I would argue Avery has been our most consistent player for about three weeks now,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “It’s been because he had his struggles early. He was turning the ball over at a high rate and he wasn’t really getting the ball where he needed to. He was able to play himself through that and now he’s kind of come out on the other side feeling pretty good that it was just part of the season.”
Boynton continued talking about Anderson and his improvement during his freshman campaign. The third-year coach said he wants Anderson to do some of the things he did well in high school, which he’s beginning to see recently.
“I don’t know if I’ve necessarily loosened the reins on him, but it’s a process with these guys,” Boynton said. “It’s takes time. When you put your hand on the stove, you get burned. Sometimes, you do it twice for some reason, but eventually I’m not going to touch that stove when I see that red light on, and that’s what he’s doing now. He’s taking less chances, playing more under control and seeing things better as a result of the game slowing down. Then, when you play well, you feel better about what you’re doing and obviously, he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.
“That’s not to say he can’t be a really high-level contributor for us. We just don’t need him to think he’s got to do what he had to do for his high school team, because I don’t want to send a message that I recruited him because of a lot of the things he did in high school. I still need him to be able to do those things confidently for us.”
As far as his team, which has shot 29.4 percent (45 of 153, including 3 of 39 from 3-point range) during its three-game losing skid to begin the conference slate of the season, Boynton said he’s looking at everything to fix the offensive woes.
On Monday, he said his squad was going to work more on offense and shooting in practice. He still believes in his team’s ability to shoot, but also said something needs to change moving forward.
“It’s a matter of guys feeling better about what they’re doing,” Boynton said. “Right now, we’ve played like a team that doesn’t believe we’re going to make any shots. There’s a lot of evidence – the last two games specifically – to make them feel that way, but you just have to play your way through it.
“… I’m not going to say we’ve played well at all. Playing well includes making shots, so that’s a part of it. However, I feel so good about what we can still become because we usually – especially from an offensive standpoint – when you don’t play well offensively, I’ve been around this game long enough to know, guys just stop playing defense. Then you find yourself in a place where you don’t do anything well. These guys have been able to buy into we just have to keep fighting defensively and eventually the shots will start falling and we’ll find ourselves having more success.”
As far as making adjustments, Boynton wants to see his team play quicker, especially on the offensive end. He added his team is taking good shots it needs to take, and that needs to continue, because he believes it will begin to make shots.
“From a half-court standpoint, I think we need to speed up the game a little bit more,” Boynton said. “We’ve got to get more possessions. Playing games in the 40s is not a good recipe. I think Mr. (Henry) Iba might have been able to get away with it. Obviously, there wasn’t this many lines on the court, there was no 3-point line and there was no shot clock. He’d be proud of our defense, but I’m not sure he’d be happy with us offensively right now.”