By Jason Elmquist, CNHI News Service
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The past few years when Oklahoma State traveled to Lawrence to take on tradition-rich Kansas it was Bill Self’s Jayhawks that were full of veterans — who had been a part of nine-straight Big 12 Conference championships — while the Cowboys were young and inexperienced.
However, the roles will be reversed when the Cowboys head north today to face the leaders in the conference standings at Allen Fieldhouse.
“Time’s flying,” said OSU junior Brian Williams. “I remember the Elijah Johnsons, the Tyshawn Taylors, the Thomas Robinsons, when they were seniors and we were just kind of learning. Some of those games got ugly, but we were learning. Now that we’ve learned it, we’re trying to put that out on the court."
Though this year’s Kansas squad is headlined by freshmen, there are some very talented first-year college players.
Three of KU’s top scorers are freshmen — the fourth being a sophomore in Perry Ellis. One of them, Andrew Wiggins, came into the college rankings with plenty of hype. He was voted the Big 12’s preseason freshman of the year as he was the top-ranked recruit by most recruiting services.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound guard has been held under double digits only twice in KU’s 16 games and is averaging 6.3 rebounds per game — coming off a 19-rebound game against Iowa State.
“He’s extremely talented and continues to improve,” Cowboys head coach Travis Ford said of Wiggins. “He’s one of the best finishers in all of basketball when it comes to the fast break, and I’m including now in any level of basketball. There's probably not even 10 other players in the NBA that can finish on the break like he can finish. He is special on the break, and in the open court."
While there was talk early in the season of Wiggins potentially being the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, that talk has actually shifted to one of his teammates, freshman center Joel Embiid.
Embiid has been impressing NBA scouts and has the attention of the Cowboys heading into Saturday’s game. The 7-footer from Cameroon is averaging 10.9 points per game, having scored double digits in six of the last seven games, while also averaging 7.4 rebounds per game. He is second in the Big 12 in blocked shots with 41.
“We’ve got to attack him,” Williams said. “He’s a good shot blocker, they have big bodies down there, but we can’t back down from them. We’ve got to try to make up for it with our athleticism. They are athletic too, but we have to utilize our athleticism to try to neutralize that height advantage, because those are some big kids.”