It’s been difficult watching Oklahoma State’s short-handed men’s basketball team play at this point in the season.

The Cowboys are giving maximum effort and are well prepared for the next challenge. Effort and competitiveness haven’t been an issue. The lack of manpower – because of the dismissal of three players and injury to another – has been a problem. OSU's margin for error is minimal.

OSU has lost seven of its last eight games and twice the Cowboys were routed – 78-50 at home against Texas Tech and 85-46 last Saturday at Kansas State. The KSU loss was the second-worst OSU loss in its history.

Both opponents took command early. Similar challenges await the Cowboys who play at Texas Tech Wednesday, hosts Kansas on Saturday and visits Baylor next week.

Starters for the Pokes have been pushed to the limit as far as minutes played. Lindy Waters III averages 34.1 minutes a game, while teammates Cameron McGriff averages 33.36, Thomas Dziagwa 30.9, Isaac Likekele 28.3 and Yor Anei 22.9.

It’s impressive how OSU approaches each game with enthusiasm and energy while hoping to maintain that energy throughout the game.

One player dismissed was a transfer, which sparked thoughts about the changes within the NCAA athletic community relating to transferring athletes. It’s become a hot topic, especially among the college football crowd.

Effective Oct. 15, 2018 a notification of transfer policy was adopted by the NCAA. The policy was known as permission to contact. Athletes have taken advantage of this new policy and several are wearing different uniforms than they wore early in their collegiate careers.

After informing the current coach about the intent to transfer and the NCAA is informed the player’s name is submitted by a compliance officer or athletic administer to the NCAA for insertion in the transfer portal.

Transfer portal is basically like professional sports’ free agency. Once the name enters the portal the player can be contacted – recruited – by other coaches. This process is changing college football’s landscape, not to mention that of other collegiate sports.

The only risk to the player is that once his name is in the portal his current school can reduce or cancel his scholarship and isn’t obligated to accept the player back if he’s unable to transfer. A senior transfer plays immediately but underclass transfers must sit one year.

OSU football has contributed to the transfer portal this past year with several players opting to transfer for a variety of reasons. The University of Oklahoma likely will be starting its third quarterback who didn’t start their careers in Norman with Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts coming in. It’s worked well for OU, but one wonders if bringing in transfers will work against recruiting a freshman phenom.

If things don’t work out for freshman players, they can always bide their time and plan on transferring during these days of free agency.

Ron Holt is a sports columnist for the Stillwater News Press. Holt served as sports editor for more than 30 years and resides in Bixby.