Jayhawks rout Cowboys; OSU remains winless in conference

Oklahoma State sophomore point guard Isaac Likekele looks for room on a drive against the Kansas defense during Monday’s game in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

There’s been no news regarding the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team and its players since Friday’s bombshell handed down from the NCAA.

The old adage of no news is good news fits for fans of the Cowboys.

There’s been no announcement of players leaving the program or incoming freshmen requesting a release from their respective national letters of intent. That’s good news for the Cowboys, who were handed down NCAA sanctions that no one across the college basketball world seemed to understand or believe were fair.

Arguably the biggest penalty was the one-year postseason ban for the 2020-21 season. The Cowboys were hoping for a good upcoming season with young talent returning to mix with a top-10 recruiting class, and the goal was to end the season with a postseason run through the NCAA Tournament.

Unless OSU’s appeal of the punishment is upheld, the Cowboys won’t be eligible next spring.

“This will not stop me from having success,” OSU men’s basketball coach Mike Boynton said on a Friday afternoon Zoom meeting with the media. “This is going to be another bump in the road and it seems like an encyclopedia of bumps in the road, but we will have success. We just have to figure out how to do it within a new scope of operation. We’re obviously going to fight this decision.”

Boynton said he was more concerned about his players than anything else once Friday’s news was released.

“I made a great effort when I got the news this morning to call every single player on our roster returning and incoming,” Boynton said. “There’s obviously a little bit of confusion and concern on their part, and rightfully so. I’m going to be here to support any decision that any of them decide to make. I told them that directly.

“Most of them know me really well because I personally recruited most of them myself. To have that conversation with them and tell them that next season could look a lot different than they anticipated wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. I sit here telling you that the conversation with all of them was difficult and challenging.”

Some Cowboys have expressed their interest in sticking with the Cowboys in talking to various news outlets. Incoming freshman Donovan Williams told the O’Colly – the OSU student newspaper – he plans to remain a Cowboy after picking OSU over Kansas State earlier this spring.

“I’m going to stand on 10 toes at the university that I committed to and I’m not going anywhere,” Williams said to the O’Colly. “I’m just ready to get to campus and get to work; got to be productive no matter what.”

The Lincoln, Nebraska, native also said he talked to Putnam City West signee Rondel Walker, who was the only in-state commit in the Cowboys’ class of 2020, after Friday’s news broke.

“He was like, ‘I’m not going anywhere either,’” Williams said to the O’Colly. “Neither of us are one-and-done. I mean if I have a good year possibly, but probably not one and done. This is only a year thing for us. The next two years we could still try to get back to the tournament.”

One signee in particular was the subject of many questions to Boynton and others Friday. Cade Cunningham, the nation’s top recruit for the 2020 class, already passed up the NBA G League to sign with OSU.

Once Friday’s news dropped, many people speculated about Cunningham’s future. He hasn’t said anything publicly, but Cunningham did talk to Boynton after the news was released.

“It was not a long conversation, unfortunately,” Boynton said. “I’m going to talk to him again, because the timing of it didn’t present an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with any of these guys. As important as Cade is, and has been for the last several years and would be to our program if he plays here, there are 12 other guys that I needed to make sure heard from me, as well. So, it was a short conversation. I think he was appreciative that he heard it from me. I think he admires that we at least have a strong enough relationship that I wouldn’t try to hide anything from him.

“I’ll tell you what I told him, I didn’t spend four years recruiting him and telling him how much I cared about him to now abandon what’s important. We’re going to have conversations over the next few days, probably weeks, and we’re going to try and look at all of the options, whatever they are – G-League, overseas, another university, stay at Oklahoma State. At the end of the day, whatever his family and he decides is best for his future, I’m going to get right in tow with that and support him 100 percent.”

One returning Cowboy seemingly expressed his loyalty to the OSU program through Instagram on Sunday. Junior point guard Isaac Likekele posted two photos with the caption, “Loyalty builds a bond not even death could violate. #BanSzn.”

According to an article on CBS Sports, Boynton said Likekele has been reached out to by 20 schools since Friday, as other programs try to attract one of the Big 12’s best returning players away from Stillwater.

However, Boynton said in the article that he’s received no phone calls from other college coaches about his players. Regardless of what his players decide to do, Boynton said he’s going to have their back.

“The thing I’ve always tried to do is be honest,” Boynton said. “I think that’s helped me through everything we’ve been through as a program in my time here, and that’s all I’ve tried to do this morning. I don’t have all the answers for them. What I’ve tried to do is be as transparent as we’ve gone through this process as I could be, but I certainly didn’t expect this to be the end result (Friday).

“As I have in almost every other case, I’ll just be honest with them and tell them that I care about them and I want what’s best for them. For guys who only have one year, maybe it’s not Oklahoma State. I’m going to support them wherever they are. For guys who want to stick with our program no matter what happens here in the next couple of months, then they’re going to be a big part of the success story when we get to the other side.”

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