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Remembering the OSU Ten

1/29/2011

It took me 11 years to "get it." On the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma State plane crash, I finally figured out something my coach scolded me about during my senior season.

I had led the country in assists as a junior and was well on my way to doing the same in the middle of the 1999-2000 season, at which time Eddie Sutton called me selfish. Selfish? Was he kidding? There is nothing more unselfish than an assist -- or so I thought.

Coach Sutton explained in no uncertain terms that that was not the case, that I was playing for assists, that it was part of my thought process that a pass was supposed to lead to an assist and, therefore, all about me. To say that I disagreed is an understatement. I stewed, I grumbled, I shook off thoughts of anything other than the old man had simply lost it.

Eleven years later, I realize I was wrong, and my night remembering the Ten who died in the Oklahoma State plane crash helped me understand why.

The reason we, as a basketball family, chose to retire the No. 10 -- the first number officially retired in the history of Oklahoma State basketball -- was because of those Ten and their inherent unselfishness. I have written proudly about my friends before, but even then I did not truly understand why they were so special to everyone who ever associated with any of them.

Now I do.

They were unselfish for no purpose other than helping others. Unlike my desire to set records and be noticed for being "unselfish," those men were the opposite -- selfless in a selfish world.

Wednesday night was about them. They embodied what I want to be on my best day, and it is my hope that they will forever be immortalized for the fact that thinking of Cowboy basketball first and one's self second should be worthy of the highest possible recognition.

Here are a couple of other stories about the Ten:

• SIDs nationwide knew how special Will Hancock was.

• Jared Weiberg would have been a coach in his own right by now. His brother's team played their guts out for him Thursday.

Who cares if Jimmer is a pro?

For the record, I think Jimmer Fredette has a very good chance to be a Jeff Hornacek-type of combo guard who will stick in the league. On the other hand, despite an interesting discussion as to whether Fredette's overall game would translate to the NBA, to me it's really about fit. Stephen Curry has excelled in the league with the perfect fit of style to his game. But why do we need to have that discussion at all?

Consider the fact that Tim Tebow is the most statistically impressive college quarterback in the history of the SEC. And if we can agree the SEC is the premier college football league in the country, the most decorated quarterback (two national titles, a Heisman Trophy and his career running and passing marks) in its history still endures the lack of national validation due to his skill set not being traditionally successful at the "next level."

Here is the first problem: calling it the "next level." True, financially and athletically you can make the case that it is a higher level across the board, but why do we never say a guy stunk as a college player, despite his success as a pro? There is no need for validation of a college career based upon a successful professional career, just like there is no need for a successful college career to validate a professional career.

Yes, Fredette should make the league. He needs to learn to keep the players he is guarding in front of him better, but his shooting touch, quick release and passing skills should translate to "that game."

In the meantime, let's just appreciate how he looks to be carrying BYU to yet another top-two finish in the conference (coach Dave Rose has never finished below second), and that he is likely the player of the year. Whether he becomes a great pro or not is not important.

Elsewhere ...

• Texas' defense is filthy. Oklahoma State's Keiton Page was held scoreless Wednesday in Gallagher-Iba Arena for the second straight year. The Horns lead the Big 12 in nearly every defensive category and are emphasizing to their players to not leave the floor until the offensive player does, and even then it is not necessary. Texas is beating opponents in the conference by 19.6 points per game and is the first team to beat MSU, KU and UNC on the road in the same year since the Fab Five. Oh, by the way, they beat OSU in front of the biggest crowd of the Travis Ford era Wednesday.

• A lot has been made of Syracuse's issues of late, the biggest one being that its guards are terrible at defending the 3. Additionally, they do not get the help from the back line like they did last season. Who is Syracuse's best win? Notre Dame at home? Outside of that, they don't have any wins over an NCAA tournament team.

• Florida State has once again discovered that it's putrid on the road. After losing at Auburn around New Year's, it no-showed Saturday at Clemson. Of all the awful stats you need to know, 21 turnovers on the road will get you beat every time.

• The St. Mary's win Thursday is especially impactful for Gonzaga, as there is a severe dislike for SMC in Spokane. Whether it is just a healthy competitive fire, or jealousy over being last year's Cinderella or Rob Jones leaving San Diego (coached by long time Zags assistant Bill Grier) for Moraga, Mickey McConnell's game-winner stoked the fire on a brewing rivalry that is close to its peak.

• Louisville used a matchup zone to confuse UConn in its double-overtime win over the Huskies in Storrs on Saturday. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier both shot the ball well, but UConn never got Alex Oriakhi going, and the Huskies seemed to run out of gas in the overtimes.