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OSU basketball: Mike Boynton leaves 2018-19 season seeing signs of bright future

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Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton and the Cowboys walk back to the locker room after falling to TCU, 73-70, in the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday. OSU ended its second season under Boynton with a 12-20 record. [Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal]
Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton and the Cowboys walk back to the locker room after falling to TCU, 73-70, in the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday. OSU ended its second season under Boynton with a 12-20 record. [Chris Neal/The Capital-Journal]

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mike Boynton looked around Oklahoma State’s Sprint Center locker room, his orange tie loosened, his white dress shirt’s top button undone and its sleeves rolled up, his navy jacket ditched long before.

He saw a collection of players who two months ago had every reason to believe their season was already over and others who weren’t even on the team at that time. With seven scholarship players left standing Wednesday after a loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament ended the Cowboys’ season at 12-20, Boynton addressed a locker room with no seniors, one where the only departures might be walk-ons for whom there is no longer space.

“What you guys have gone through should give you a great sense of what we can become,” Boynton told his team. “I’m sure you guys have heard it. Everybody’s talking about what the future of the program is. The truth is, the future of the program is here. We are the future.”

Boynton’s second season as OSU’s basketball coach was a battle from the start. In the Cowboys’ opening game, a questionable flagrant foul on Lindy Waters allowed lowly Charlotte to steal a victory. In January, OSU’s only senior, graduate transfer Mike Cunningham, left the program, and a week later, Michael Weathers, Kentrevious Jones and Maurice Calloo were gone, too, dismissed for their involvement in a reported vandalism incident.

Boynton added seven walk-ons, six coming out of an open tryout the day after the dismissals and the other plucked from the Cowboys’ collection of student managers. Their presence gave OSU a chance to practice and, thus, improve.

The Cowboys, though, lost nine of 10 conference games after the dismissals, the season’s potential washed away. They did not quit, however.

“Not many teams go through what we’ve gone through, losing guys and adding new faces in the middle of the season,” Waters said. “The way my body’s feeling, it feels like a long year. But I wouldn’t want to go back and change a thing about it.”

OSU’s 2018-19 season will be remembered for resiliency, furthering the foundation laid by Boynton’s first group. The only carryovers with playing time, Waters, Cam McGriff and Thomas Dziagwa, became captains, helping steady a ship that could have sunk. The trio and Curtis Jones will be seniors next year, while freshmen Isaac Likekele, Duncan Demuth and Yor Anei — who matched OSU’s single-season blocks record thanks to 21 swats in the season’s final three games — are expected to return, as well. A top-25 recruiting class, with two openings still to fill, will join, too.

“Next year, we’ve got something to prove,” McGriff said. “We’re unfortunate it had to end this early, but now, we get a headstart on working on next year.”

Boynton said this group made him prouder than any other he’s coached, regardless of results. It would’ve been easy to give in, he said, but instead, the Cowboys won their final two regular-season games and went to Kansas City believing a surprise run was possible.

Even down 21 to TCU, the Cowboys rallied to lead in the final minute, their lack of quit evident in the season’s waning moments. Afterward, Boynton’s message of what’s to come stuck with his players.

“He thinks we are the future,” Waters said. “He thinks we’re the ones that are building this up right now, and hopefully, down the line, that’s true.”

Nathan Ruiz

A native of Reno, Nevada, Nathan Ruiz joined The Oklahoman in 2018 as an Oklahoma State beat writer. A former intern with The Oklahoman, Ruiz graduated from Oklahoma State in May of 2017 and also had internships with the Reno Gazette-Journal,... Read more ›

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