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Boynton ‘Prepared for Whatever’ Portal Season Brings, Wants to Add Shooting, Point Guard

The Cowboys got an early start on the offseason with the NCAA sanctions.

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

STILLWATER — The Big 12 Tournament is set to start in Kansas City on Wednesday night, but Mike Boynton is in Stillwater working on the preliminary phases of roster building for the 2022-23 season.

As part of the NCAA sanctions levied against the program, Oklahoma State is ineligible for postseason play, meaning Boynton and the Cowboys got a head start on the offseason. The roster moves have already started. Donovan Williams, a former four-star recruit, entered the transfer portal Monday. In a postseason news conference Wednesday, Boynton didn’t specifically say whether he expected others to join Williams in the portal.

“I’m prepared for whatever happens,” Boynton said. “… I don’t want to get ahead of anybody’s news, good or bad. I think there will be some really positive news, but I think there will probably be some unfortunate situations as well. My job is to make sure the people in that office up there are doing the necessary things to be prepared for whatever happens. I don’t expect to have 12 new faces, but if we have to have 12 new faces, we’ll try to have 12 really good new faces.”

Boynton said the plan is to have preliminary talks with guys on his roster before any transfer decisions are made. He said he didn’t get to have one of those talks with Williams.

Boynton said he has had one of those preliminary talks with starting center Moussa Cisse. Cisse isn’t a threat to transfer, necessarily. He said last week if he plays college ball next year it’ll be at Oklahoma State. But the 7-footer could have a chance to pursue a professional career.

Cisse went deep into the NBA Draft process last offseason. He chose to return to the college game, where he averaged 10.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a game across the Cowboys’ last nine games.

“Kids need time to decompress,” Boynton said. “He’s 19 years old. He doesn’t need to make a big decision about what can affect his entire life without really sitting back and giving it some thought, and I feel that way about the portal. Kids should be allowed to do whatever they want, but they should have the opportunity to step away from the emotion of the moment and really talk to people who can really kind of help them decipher whether it’s real that they need a new start or that they just don’t like how things are going right now. … We [Boynton and Cisse] have had preliminary conversations. We talked about how this process needs to go. At the end of the day, he’ll make the decision that he feels is in his best interest for his future, but I feel like we did have a positive conversation initially.”

Although Boynton was respectably vague with the potential of some of his players entering the portal, he was blunt in saying what the Cowboys need to add this offseason: shooting and a point guard.

The Cowboys shot 29.5% from 3-point range this season, the worst in the Big 12. Avery Anderson (34-for-105), Keylan Boone (36-for-114) and Williams (4-for-9) where the only players to shoot higher than 30% on the year.

As far as point guards go, Isaac Likekele and Bryce Williams led the Cowboys in assists. Williams has exhausted his eligibility, and Likekele is considering whether he wants to return for a super senior season. Those two accounted for 178 of the Pokes’ 380 assists on the season, about 47%. They are also the only two players on the Cowboys’ roster with a positive assist to turnover ratio with at least 35 assists.

If pigeonholed into a position, Anderson is probably a “point guard,” but he has been more of a scorer than a facilitator to this point in his career. Anderson has averaged 12.1 points a game the past two seasons. He has also averaged 2.1 assists and 2.8 turnovers a game during that time. So, while Anderson is a big positive in the scoring department, OSU could use some help with distribution post Bryce Williams and Likekele.

“I think it’s a skill, facilitating is a skill,” Boynton said. “I think you can learn the game better. Obviously it takes a lot of film study, extra time with your teammates and all that stuff to figure out where they need the ball, how to get them shots based off what we do. I think there’s ways to grow. I think Avery’s grown in that area, really has. His freshman year to today, stark difference.

“… Assist to turnover needs to continue to improve, but it’s gotten better. So yes, I think he can get better. But certainly having somebody who is focused on that and does it full time is the best way to go.”

Boynton has an idea of what he thinks he needs, but his roadmap to getting there is more complex than it is for most coaches.

As part of those same NCAA sanctions that are keeping the Cowboys out of postseason play, the Cowboys also have a scholarship reduction of three over the next three seasons (though, Georgia Tech got its four-scholarship reduction reduced this week). Normally, college programs are allowed to have 13 players on scholarship, but the sanctions make OSU’s situation a little more fluid. How is Boynton handling that?

“Just recruit,” Boynton said. “You recruit until you feel like you got a team capable enough to win the Big 12. … I’ll just continue to recruit until that happens. Obviously I won’t go over the number, but if we get to 13 and have to figure out what happens later on, we’ll talk about what happens later on. I’m not gonna restrict our staff from doing their jobs really well and aggressively, worrying about something that’s not necessarily settled and really, quite honestly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”

There aren’t a ton of 2022 recruits left his late into the cycle. However, OSU has been mentioned with a few of them.

The Cowboys are among the programs vying for Anthony Black, a five-star prospect ranked 22nd in the class. Black has various predictions to end up in Stillwater, but Gonzaga and Arkansas are also thought to be involved. Black is a Cade Cunningham-esque player in that he is a 6-foot-7 point guard.

Skyy Clark, another five-star prospect, recently decommitted from Kentucky. A 6-3 point guard, he is the No. 27 player in the class. Upon his decommitment, OSU reportedly reached out to Clark, but so did a bevy of other programs.

Dantwan Grimes is an under-the-radar option. A junior college product, Grimes is leading Kilgore to a 25-2 record in the NJCAA Tournament.

Then there’s the transfer portal. With conference tournaments going on, the portal will likely start to flood with players over the next week or so as more and more teams end their seasons.

“There aren’t that many high-level 2022s out there,” Boynton said. “We feel really good about the one we have signed [Quion Williams]. But there’s always a balance and there’s always turnover this time of year. So, you got to just kind of keep your antennas up on all of it. It’s all recruiting in my mind. It’s more fit than necessarily where they are. It’s more of what they actually bring to the table that can help us have success.”

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