After Oklahoma’s State’s 99-72 loss to the Italian National Team “B” squad, it was easy to be discouraged and disappointed. There is a lot of hype surrounding this young team and Coach Mike Boynton has been making some waves on the recruiting trail, so a loss like this can really bring you back down to Earth.
However, you have to remember that this is Italian is team made up of professional athletes who have played together for a lot longer than this Oklahoma State group. In addition, this was the Cowboys first game together and they are going to need to some time to build up chemistry.
With that said, please allow me to be get completely out in front of my skis about one Cowboy who played extremely well yesterday. That player… is Issac “Ice” Likekele.
There were a fair amount of overall team struggles in this game, such as help defense and turnovers, but Likekele really stood out on the positive side of things. You can tell he has a strong passion for the game, and he has the qualities of a future leader on this OSU team. Below I have highlighted some of the main things which impressed me in Likekele’s game.
Also, just a quick note, Oklahoma State is listed as “Oklahoma” on the T.V. scoreboard. I wanted to warn everyone now in case anyone gets nauseous from that sight.
The 6-4, 210 pound freshman played both on and off the ball in this contest. There was normally another ball handler, such as Mike Cunningham or Michael Weathers, on the floor with him, but that doesn’t mean Likekele doesn’t have the skill set to run the point when asked. Whether he started with the ball in his hands or not, Likekele showed that he can really light up the scoreboard.
Here we see him show off a little hesitation move to blow by the defender for the easy layup.
In addition, Likekele got out in transition well and was always running on the break looking to either set someone up, or finish himself.
And he’s not just about finishing inside, the young guard can fill it up from distance as well. Also, I left the sound on in this clip because I really enjoyed the announcers’ pronunciation of his name.
He finished the game with 13 points, going 6 for 11 from the field, in just over 22 minutes.
Likekele’s quickness on defense allows him to keep up with the other team’s ballhandlers, and his length and size enable him to switch on to bigger players if needed. His length was really on display on the defensive side of the ball in yesterday’s game.
In the clip below you see him use his length and speed to really bother the Italian point guard and force him to lose the ball. You have to love his hustle throughout the video as well.
Likekele did a great job of fighting through screens and recovering when he lost his man. He definitely has some things to learn on defense, and that’s to be expected from a young player, but when you hustle and close out like he does in the clip below… it’s a great starting point.
And that hustle will eventually lead to plays like this.
Likekele ended the game with 2 steals.
The last item I want to discuss is his play-making ability. Boynton seems to already think highly of Likekele as a playmaker. For instance, Boynton let him run the point, and I believe every time except for once when Dizzy was in, Likekele was the inbound passer.
Something you see in his high school highlight tapes is his ability to get into the lane, draw the defenders to him and then kick to the open man. Now, his teammate didn’t always finish against Italy, but you can see he has the skill set to do this at the college level.
In this clip, Likekele finds Kentrevious Jones inside after he draw Jones’ defender to him. Jones doesn’t convert the basket, but he goes up strong and gets the foul call.
Likekele is also aware of his strengths and what he can do well at the college level. He told PFB the following when asked about what he’s improved and what skills will translate to the college game.
“My shooting ability has gotten better, that’s something I worked on. My handles, my dribbling has gotten way better. I think what’s going to translate best for me is my play-making ability at the next level. For myself and for others. My defense, and on top of that my leadership and my hard-nosed mentality. I have a mentality of playing hard all the time and being tough. Play-making, being a leader, being tough and being a great defender. All those will translate great to the next level.”
Likekele did make some mistakes in this game. He had a few careless turnovers and, along with the rest of this Oklahoma State group, lost his man at times and didn’t rotate well in his help defense. But the good heavily outweighed the bad for Likekele and you can see the potential is there for him to become a star in Stillwater and lead this team onto great things in the near future.