Oklahoma State lost a point guard who went No. 6 in the 2014 NBA Draft but the Cowboys will have one of the most experienced players in the conference at that position.
“Anthony Hickey is one of the better on-the-ball defenders I've coached,” coach Travis Ford said at Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday.
Ford speaks highly, even by his standards, about the LSU transfer's ability to lead the team and be tenacious on defense.
“I was excited about a lot of our players, but we didn't have that experience at the point guard spot until we've got him. Now we go from having some guys that have been playing the position that didn't have experience to a guy that's been a three-year starter at the highest level. Played in tons of big games.”
A quick look at Hickey's numbers with the Tigers won't make you roar. 8.4 points and 3.7 assists were his averages last season in Baton Rouge. But take a look at Hickey's turnovers (1.3 per-game) and assists-to-turnover ratio (2.8) and you'll find a much more prototypical college point guard than Marcus Smart (3.0 turnovers-per-game for his career) ever was.
“In practice, with how he's played, he looks like he's been there for a couple of years,” Ford said. “How he's led and talked to guys. But when you're a three-year starter in the SEC, you immediately get that respect.”
Ford noted the low expectations nationally for his team and said Hickey, along with seniors Le'Bryan Nash and Michael Cobbins and junior Phil Forte, will be the ones counted on to forge a team identity.
“This team has to go out and create its own identity. No question, the identity of our team last year was Marcus Smart. But this team, I think, is eager to develop its own identity.”
One can assume Hickey, Forte, Nash and a now-healthy Cobbins will take four of the starters' spots, but who gets the last one? Out of the rest of the roster, sophomore Leyton Hammonds saw the most minutes last season and senior Christien Sager wasn't far behind him. Redshirt-freshman Jeffrey Carroll is a sharp-shooting 6-foot-6 wing. Incoming four-star freshman Joe Burton should see some minutes but is he ready for a starting role?
Ford didn't offer any hints, and it's probably still too early for a serious depth chart, but he does like the options his roster provides.
“This team, we've got more depth than we've had. Probably more depth at this point than I've had at Oklahoma State. Now, do we have that Preseason All-American and all that? No, but I think we've got great balance. This team seems to be very hungry.”