Oklahoma State is more than just Cade Cunningham. Sure, he gets the attention and for good reason. But as the Cowboys prepare to face TCU in their Big 12 opener tonight, the Cowboys (6-0) have emerged as a sneaky good team that is developing a talented roster beyond Cunningham.
In truth, the Cowboys NEED to develop that roster. Cunningham, the Cowboys’ leading scorer and rebounder (18.5 ppg and 5.7 rpg) is likely a one-and-done player. I wrote earlier this season that if high school players could still go straight to the NBA, Cunningham probably wouldn’t be in Stillwater. Plus, point guard Isaac Likekele has already tested the NBA waters once and, should this season go the way he hopes, he’ll probably take his shot at pro ball after this season.
Likekele is worth a look when it comes to the NBA, as he averages 10 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 4 assists per game. He’s also one of the Big 12’s best perimeter defenders.
The Cowboys also stand to lose guard Bryce Thompson and guard Ferron Flavors Jr., the latter of which was a transfer. Those are significant losses. Cunningham, Likekele and Flavors are starters. Thompson is giving the Cowboys nice help off the bench.
The good news? The young Cowboys roster that should be back next year is rounding out nicely.
Cunningham and Likekele are averaging 29.3 points per game combined. But the next two players behind them — Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe and Rondel Walker — are part of the same recruiting class as Cunningham, one 27Sports.com rated as the No. 10 class in the country. Both Alexander-Moncrieffe and Walker are averaging more than 8 points per game and are coming off the bench.
Our Oklahoma State contributor George McCormick has already profiled both Alexander-Moncrieffe and Walker this season. Their early emergence is important for different reasons. The transfer of Yor Anei left a hole in the middle, though to be fair, Anei wasn’t necessarily a polished inside player. Neither is Alexander-Moncrieffe (6-foot-7) at this point, as the native Canadian finished up his prep career in the U.S. and is still working on his game. But, the Cowboys clearly needed someone to pair with their starting inside player, 6-foot-9 sophomore Kalib Boone, a key part of the Cowboys’ 2019 Class. And in that respect he’s delivered.
Right now, you have to look at Alexander-Moncrieffe and Kalib Boone as a package deal and combine their numbers, since they’re not on the floor with each other that frequently. Combined the two are averaging 15.5 points and 8.7 rebounds. That’s a solid interior combination. Plus, because the pair are trading off time, neither gets too tired.
Walker is a local kid from Putnam City, Oklahoma, another indication that head coach Mike Boynton Jr.’s work in local recruiting is paying off. He’s averaging 9.2 points per game and is giving the Cowboys great guard play off the bench so far this season. Another thing you have to like about Walker is how he shoots from the free throw line — 80 percent. The freebies don’t seem to faze him.
Alexander-Moncrieffe and Walker have rounded into players that Boynton can count on early this season, and that was apparent against Wichita State on Sunday. Alexander-Moncrieffe came off the bench to score 8 points and grab 3 rebounds, along with a steal and an assist. Walker had 13 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. Their contributions were important as Cunningham scored just one basket in the second half (it was the game-winner, of course, if you’re wondering).
The development of Alexander-Moncrieffe and Walker isn’t just important because it helps fill holes in the lineup this year. The Cowboys are on probation this year and cannot participate in the postseason (unless something dramatic happens, and when has the NCAA ever done anything dramatic?). So the talent Boynton develops this year has to carry the day next year, too. This means the accelerated development of Alexander-Moncrieffe and Walker bodes well.
But it’s more than that. Kalib Boone is just a sophomore. His brother, Keylan Boone, is a starter and averages 5.5 points per game. He’s also a sophomore. Guard Avery Anderson III is a sophomore and averaging 7.7 points per game. Guard Chris Harris was a contributor as a true freshman last year, and while he’s a bit lost in the shuffle right now, he’s undeniably talented and averaging 4 points per game.
Then there’s freshman guard Donovan Williams, another member of the 2020 Class, along with long, athletic Brandon Kouma, who started against Wichita State but hasn’t played much to this point.
Some people will tell you that the Cowboys losing Cunningham and Likekele after this season will be a hit, and it will be. But don’t let them fool you into thinking that the Cowboys might take a step back.
The play of Alexander-Moncrieffe and Walker, among others, are working to make sure that doesn’t happen.
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