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Talent No Longer a Question in This New Era of Oklahoma State Hoops

Boynton is Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause with this new-look Pokes squad.

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For much of Mike Boynton’s tenure, the talent level has been questioned.

His first year was the first year after Jawun Evans. After a trio of dismissals in Year 2, Oklahoma State finished the season with seven scholarship players. Boynton had four contributing seniors in Year 3, but they were undervalued from the outside and paired with five freshmen who weren’t yet ready to carry a team.

Talent doesn’t look like it’ll be an issue for OSU in 2020-21, though. Rising juniors Isaac Likekele and Yor Anei have played major minutes since they arrived in Stillwater. OSU’s five freshmen from last season had a year to develop and show to be promising sophomores. Oh, and Boynton is bringing in the No. 4 recruiting class in the country, according to Rivals, with the projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Cade Cunningham.

Having these highly-touted newcomers and strong experienced players provides a new challenge for Boynton and his staff. He has to juggle the depth and expectations to keep players focused on the goal of winning.

“If everyone accepts that Cade’s the most talented guy, currently, then I would guess we’ll have six, seven, maybe eight other guys who all think that they’re the second-best guy,” Boynton said. “And not everybody can be the second-best guy. In fact, somebody’s gonna be ninth in the pecking order. How do we manage those things now that those are real conversations to have?

“I always say, it’s an easy thing to say in April that I’m going to accept this role and then another thing in December when maybe you don’t get in a game or you haven’t practiced well and you don’t play for a few games. That’ll be the real test. I’ve got confidence in our ability to relationally deal with those things because the kids really believe that we care about them and that we’re trying to do best for them, but ultimately it’ll come down to when we play games and who’s having an opportunity that we’ll have to really deal with those situations.”

With Sunday’s debut of “The Last Dance” on everyone’s mind, Boynton now has to play the role of general manager Jerry Krause and head coach Phil Jackson. He did the team building, but now he has to do the peacekeeping.

Boynton said he wants to create a competitive environment. But at some point in November or December, he’ll also need guys to settle into their roles. It’s a better problem to have than simply not having the guys to be successful at a high level, but it is a new challenge to the Boynton-era Cowboys.

“I expect our current players to not relinquish their positions in our program,” Boynton said. “I don’t expect Ice [Likekele] or Avery [Anderson] to just say, ‘Hey Cade, you get to go take all the minutes and play the point guard position all the time.’ What we’ve created is a really competitive environment. What that’s gonna do is make everybody better. Then it’s gonna be incumbent upon me to make sure that guys understand how we have success together because if we win, then each individual person has the opportunity to achieve their goals.”

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