Thursday, November 15, 2001

Oklahoma State battling injuries

Sutton says team's progress has suffered

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Eddie Sutton, in his 12th year as coach at Oklahoma State, has never had a team so experienced and deep to start a season.

        But he sure figured his 18th-ranked Cowboys would be further along when the regular season was about to tip off. That's Friday night against the University of Cincinnati on ESPN.

        When asked about this challenging season opener, UC coach Bob Huggins said, “I don't know if it's a great opener for us, but it's a great game for us.”

        Said Sutton: “I'm sure Bob and I both would prefer to play it maybe later in the year. I was looking forward to it until our team hadn't been playing well. Maybe they'll snap out of it.”

        To hear Sutton tell it, this might be the best time for the Bearcats to play the game.

        Cheyne Gadson, a junior-college transfer who was expected to see substantial minutes, had arthroscopic knee surgery, sat out about two weeks and missed the team's exhibition opener. Sutton said Gadson is out of shape.

        Junior forward Andre Williams also missed the team's first exhibition game with a sprained ankle that kept him out about 10 days. He just started practicing with the team nine days ago, Sutton said, adding that Williams would be a probable starter if he were healthy.

        Sutton said starting forward Melvin Sanders, who has high-jumped 7 feet, 2 inches, missed three days of practice, sophomore Terrence Crawford five days, sophomore Aaron Hill a week and senior Antoine Broxie a couple of days with various injuries and ailments.

        “And last week we had the flu going around,” Sutton said. “We haven't had the entire team out there all together for very many days. As a result, I don't think we're playing as well as I had hoped we would at this point. I think our defense is our most disturbing thing.

        “What happens is you don't have the competition in practice that you need.”

        Everyone is expected to be available Friday night. And Sutton won't deny that his club could be awfully good as the season progresses.

        All five starters are back, including senior guard Maurice Baker, who led the team in scoring (19.8 ppg), assists (127), 3-pointers (64-157, .408), free throw shooting (.806) and steals (61). He also averaged 6.7 rebounds.

        He was first-team All-Big 12 and was the league's Newcomer of the Year. Baker, like UC guard Steve Logan, is on the preseason list of 50 players selected as candidates for the John R. Wooden All-America team and Player of the Year awards.

        UC assistant coach Dan Peters, who has scouted the Cowboys, calls Baker “the heart and soul” of the team. UC's Immanuel McElroy probably will draw the defensive assignment.

        “Maurice Baker's got a chance to play at the next level for sure,” Peters said. “He's probably the best rebounding 6-foot-1 guy in the country.”

        “I don't know if he can measure up to what he was able to accomplish last year,” Sutton said, “because I think teams are going to concentrate more effort on him, so his numbers might not be as good.”

        The other guard is junior Victor Williams (11.5 ppg). The forwards are Sanders and sophomore Ivan McFarlin. Fredrik Jonzen, a 6-10 senior from Sweden, is the center.

        Oklahoma State, picked to finish third in the Big 12, could use as many as 11 players a game when everyone's healthy.

        “I think we have more depth than a year ago,” Sutton said. “I think this team, if they stay healthy and continue to mature, should finish in the upper half of our league and be in the NCAA Tournament. I don't think we're an Elite Eight team or a Final Four team or anything like that, but you get in the NCAA Tournament and anything can happen.”


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