Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
Cade Cunningham is the shiny new object, but someone else might be more impactful.
Coming into the college basketball season it was no secret which of the new Oklahoma State men’s basketball players would garner the most attention. People are naturally going to be focused on a consensus #1 recruit who is considered by all to be a “one and done.”
So far Cade Cunningham has not disappointed, proving to be a consistent stat stuffer. In my amateur opinion, however, he has NOT been the most impactful addition to OSU’s roster.
Boynton’s incoming class was top ten in the country and hinted at a number of possible new stars, but the coronavirus has limited our ability to see what is really happening.
Now, after three games (one a good road win over a good opponent), I believe it is pretty clear what to expect from the influx of fresh faces.
Cunningham looks to be more of the “Marcus Smart” style of player, not to assert his will or completely take over a game necessarily, but will always get his numbers across the board. Points, rebounds, assists, steals, maybe a block. But he’s not an “energy” guy. Even keel, smooth, and a lot of his contribution feels a bit “quiet.” That’s fine, nothing wrong with a stat stuffer. We see what Smart is doing in the NBA and Cunningham brings a better offensive game, especially his ability to get his own shot and finish when he has a little space to operate. Cunningham’s ball-handling needs improvement, however, for someone carrying such high expectations.
That being said, the Cowboys need a player that “jumps” off the screen at you. Cade is noticeable, but I don’t necessarily see him and go “Holy crap, who is THAT guy?”
A lot of players have contributed so far and all look to be valuable in varying degrees, but Rondel Walker is a dude, and that dude changes a game with his presence. He brings instant intensity and can impact the game equally on both ends of the floor. His ball-handling is very solid and his “hesitation” first step is deadly when combined with his quickness. Walker is also deceptively physical, which has shown in his ability to finish at the rim DESPITE a lot of contact. He has ALL the tools.
Oklahoma State was sluggish and struggling with Marquette’s size and composure, going down 12 points with 12:27 left in the first half. Walker subbed a bit prior to that moment, but you could sense the change in energy the minute he came on the floor. After missing his first attempt he would contribute a steal and six of OSU’s next 14 points (including a couple of trips to the line) as the Cowboys quickly righted the ship. Bryce Williams is not to be forgotten in this, but Walker was everywhere on both ends and was a real problem at the top of Boynton’s 3-2 zone that pretty much put the clamps on Marquette’s offense in the second half and also functioned as a quality control check on the shot clock buzzer.
Don’t misunderstand, Cade Cunningham is the real deal, but Walker is the guy that takes over a game in a given moment. If OSU is in crunch time I want both of those players on the floor as either have the ability to create and “get their shot.” You could put Cade, Walker, Likele, Bryce Williams, and one of the Boone twins on the floor and that’s a really hard bunch to cover if you need a stop.
Well done Coach Mike. This is a pretty fun bunch to watch and will only get better.