Travis Ford and the Oklahoma State basketball team hosted their annual media day at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Monday. Here are the comments of the head coach and players.
Head Coach Travis Ford
On breaking in a freshman point guard:
"The most difficult part is understanding the level of competition on a day-in and day-out basis, and how mentally and physically locked in you have to be. When you're a high school senior, the best player on the team and one of the better players in the country, there's a lot of times that you're taking plays off. You also have to get used to not having to do everything by yourself and overdue things. Jawun Evans does a lot of things you can't teach. His understanding, feel and way he sees the game of basketball is special. It's not something you see on many basketball courts at any level. He is one of the most unselfish players I've been around. He is a freshman, but thank goodness more times than not, he hasn't looked like one in pact. He's had his days where he looks like a freshman, but that's the challenge because now that we're three weeks it we're finding out if he can sustain it."
On comparisons between Jawun Evans and Marcus Smart:
"There are none. They are two totally different players in style of play, physical manor and a lot of other ways. There are no similarities other than they're both very talented."
On using preseason projection for motivation:
"It's been brought up, but in today's society, they know it, have seen and read it. If I had to use that as motivation, then we've got issues. One thing I always do each year after media day with the players that have went with me, I have them talk to their teammates about it. It's a great way to motivate them."
On Phil Forte being a model for Jawun Evans:
"It's terrific because you have the ultimate in work ethic who has made himself into the player he is, and then you have someone who is blessed, still works hard, but has great God-given ability. If any indication of what we've seen in practice, those two together are going to be fun to watch. They're good for each other for mental makeup and playing-wise too. With Jawun Evans, you have to pick your poison on whether you're going to help off somebody to keep him in front or you're going to lock up Phil Forte and let [Evans] get to the rim."
Senior guard Jeff Newberry
On where the team is picked to finish in the Big 12:
"Well I feel like we always have a chip on our shoulder. It's just a number by a name to me personally. They could have picked us one through six but we are seven. Obviously, it gives you more motivation going into the season, and it makes you come into practice and work a little harder. We want to prove everybody else wrong."
On the offseason after having a year of Division 1 basketball played:
"I worked a lot on my mid-range jumper. I needed to make a lot of 3-pointers last season, but this year we need a good mid-range shooter. I've worked on my footwork, and being a leader off the court."
Is it fair to call this Phil's team?
"Well in a sense you can call it his team. He's put in his time, he's been here for four years, but he would never act that way, as if it was his team. We need each other to be able to do what needs to be done this year. We don't have the Le'Bryan Nash's or the Michael Cobbins down low to shoot. But we had guys who are hungry and humble. Just like Phil says, we aren't worried about who is going to score the most points, we just want to get the job done. We look up to him as if it is his team. He's been here through the good and the bad times, so I think it is fair to call it his team.
Junior forward Leyton Hammonds
On the point system:
"I didn't think about a lot of this stuff especially diving on the ground for loose balls and stuff like that. The point system has really changed my perspective. Helping my teammates out has really made that happen for me."
Who has done really well with the point system so far?
"Tyree Griffin has done really well. He gets after it on defense. He's a really good hustle player, he's always the first one to the floor if the ball is loose. He gets a lot of steals, a lot of assists and is making things happen."
New role and how you've prepared:
"Overall, I've worked on my strength and athleticism. I need to get more rebounds and be more aggressive. I want to have the most rebounds on my team."
On point guard Jawun Evans:
"I've seen some spectacular plays already. I tell everyone about the first time I played with him, it was a pickup game during his second day on campus, he threw me a pass and to this day I still don't know how that ball ended up in my hands. He sees the court and has a certain knowledge of the game that is incomparable to anyone I have ever played with. He's a heck of a player."
Freshman point guard Jawuan Evans
On what he has learned about his teammates:
"We need each other. We need each other to make ourselves better. We've got some guys with a lot of leadership at the top, especially Phil [Forte], Jeff [Newberry] and a few others on the team. My teammates are great."
On if he has become comfortable playing with Phil Forte:
"Yes, especially when we get in fastbreak situations. He's the first guy I look for. When we're running down the court and he's open, I know I can go to him and let him make the shot."
On becoming accustomed to the atmosphere at Homecoming & Hoops and at Gallagher-Iba Arena:
"It was a great atmosphere. All the fans were getting really into, and it was great to finally play in front of them. We're getting close to the start of the season, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of that atmosphere throughout the year."
On who thinks the most underrated player on this year's team is:
"I would have to say Tavarius Shine. He does it all. He's good on ball screens, he can shoot the ball and he can score at will."
Senior guard Phil Forte
“It's my last year here to be a player for Oklahoma State. The group of guys that we have right now I'm really excited about. I'm not going to sit here and say that we have the most talent NBA-wise, but it's definitely the closest team that I've played on in my four years. It makes things fun, especially when everybody likes being around each other and making one another better in practice every day. There aren't any egos or people worrying about points. We're focused on finding ways to win, going into each practice one day at a time to get ready for the season.”
On team camaraderie:
“Coach Ford wanted to take another step toward our team coming closer off of the court, which has helped a lot in practice and work outs. I think we grew more with the paintball, cooking together at his home, going to movies and bowling rather than just practice every day. I think our growth will show a lot on the court this year.”
On team's scoring:
“I learned a lot last year just from how teams play me. There's nothing else they can do that's too different as far as how close you can guard somebody. I watched a lot of film this summer and tried to learn from that. I think we're a better shooting team than we were last year one through five. That will spread the floor a lot more. I also think the depth of this team will help. We don't have to rely on a couple of guys to score because we will have a balanced attack.”
On replacing Michael Cobbins and Le'Bryan Nash:
“It's hard replacing a guy that averaged 17 points per game in the Big 12. Leyton [Hammonds] is coming in and has big shoes to fill. He knows that and has worked really hard this summer. He is ready to step into that role. [Chris Olivier] has made a really good transition here coming from the level he was at before to the big 12. He's done everything you could possibly ask for, listening like a sponge and absorbing anything we tell him. He is very willing to try to get better each day. Michael [Cobbins] was a very great defensive player. He blocked shots and rebounded, which is hard to replace. Mitch [Solomon] has had a year of experience now, as well as big Anthony [Allen]. Everyone has something individually to prove and we're willing to step up and take it one step further.”