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August 30, 2008

Head coach: Travis Ford
Last season: 17-16 overall, 7-9 in Big 12.
Postseason: Lost 69-53 to Southern Illinois in NIT first round.
Breakdown: Probable starters | Backcourt | Frontcourt | Offense | Defense | Outlook


Expect new coach Travis Ford to go with a four-guard lineup quite a bit. The Cowboys are thin up front but deep on the perimeter, thanks to the return of four guards who averaged between nine and 13 points last season.

Guard James Anderson led the Cowboys with 13.3 points per game last season.

G Byron Eaton, 5-11/Sr.
11.5 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.1 spg
G Terrel Harris, 6-5/Sr.
10.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 spg
G Obi Muonelo, 6-5/Jr.
9.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G James Anderson, 6-6/Soph.
13.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg
C Ibrahima Thomas, 6-11/Soph.
6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg
F Malcolm Kirkland, 6-8/Soph.
Junior college recruit
G Keiton Page, 5-10/Fr.
True freshman
The most important member of the quartet is senior point Byron Eaton, a former five-star recruit who has yet to fulfill his potential. Ford already has said, "Byron will either be one of the best point guards in this league and one of the best in the country, or it will be the toughest year of his life."

Built similar to former UConn guard Khalid El-Amin, the 5-11 Eaton has weighed as much as 245 pounds in the past. However, Eaton returned to campus this summer at 220. Staying on the court may now be Eaton's biggest obstacle. He fouled out of seven games last season.

Sophomore wing James Anderson looks poised for a big season after leading the team in scoring and landing on the Big 12 All-Freshman team. An athletic slasher, Anderson is an ideal fit for the fast-paced and wide-open offense Ford will install.

Two veterans junior Obi Muonelo and senior Terrel Harris also should benefit from the coaching switch. Both can attack the basket and finish in the open court. Consistency has been their main problem. Muonelo has been a streaky shooter in the past. Harris, who was temporarily suspended for unspecified reasons by Ford this summer, scored at least 20 points in four games last season but also had two games where he failed to score.

Freshman point guard Keiton Page, a three-star recruit, is expected to see time behind Eaton.


The Cowboys have been undersized and undermanned up front the past two seasons, and this season will be more of the same.

The departure of senior forward Marcus Dove leaves sophomore center Ibrahima Thomas as the only returning big man with any significant experience. The only other post players on the roster are newcomers: junior college transfer Malcolm Kirkland (6-8) and true freshman Teeng Akol (6-10).

Dove is a bigger loss than his 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game indicate. An extraordinary defender, Dove could guard almost any position and often guarded the opposing team's top scoring threat. More often than not, he slowed his man down.

The Cowboys need a breakthrough year from Thomas, who came to Stillwater as a raw project. A native of Senegal, Thomas showed flashes of potential last season. He had a 16-point, 10-rebound game in a loss to Texas Tech and a career-high 19-point outing in a loss to Texas.


Expect some radical changes when the Cowboys have the ball. Ford will adapt to his personnel, but he prefers to run and push the pace unlike his predecessor, conservative-minded Sean Sutton and this team is built for that. Ford's team at Massachusetts last season tied for eighth in the nation in scoring at 81.5 points per game and ranked 13th with 9.2 3-pointers made per game.


One thing Sutton and Ford have in common is a penchant for using man-to-man defense. The difference will be a more aggressive version. Ford will ask his guards to take more risks in hopes of creating turnovers that will generate more offense.

Ford is taking over a sleeping giant. Actually, it's more of a napping giant, since the Cowboys are only three years removed from a trip to the Elite Eight and four from a Final Four run. The roster remains among the most talented in the Big 12 with two former five-star recruits (Eaton and Muonelo) and two former four-stars (Anderson and Harris). Anderson looked as good as some of the nation's elite freshman early last season before tiring in league play. The big issues are lack of a solid big man and depth, and it's unlikely either will get fixed this season. We expect the Cowboys to be improved, but to fall just short of an NCAA bid.


Dove. The multi-dimensional forward was one of the best defensive players in school history. He was selected the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year last season after splitting the award with Kansas guard Mario Chalmers the previous season.


Thomas. At 6-11 and 240 pounds, he has the physical tools to be a shot-blocking threat and a good rebounder. The Cowboys need him to be both to have a chance at reaching the NCAA Tournament.


Page. This in-state product from Pawnee (Okla.) High lacks size and athleticism, but Page shoots the ball extremely well from the outside - a trait that will earn him a spot in Ford's rotation. He hit 50.9 percent (139 of 273) of his 3-point attempts as a high school senior.

Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.

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