Last season was highly successful for Oklahoma State Basketball. They were in the spotlight with projected No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Cade Cunningham and after getting a postseason ban reprieve, the Cowboys were able to participate in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and made it to the Round of 32.
With Cunningham gone though, there will certainly be less attention paid to OK State. But that would be a mistake, as they return eight of the 10 rotation players, including the team’s leading rebounder and passer Isaac Likelele, and sophomore guard Avery Anderson, who averaged 12.2 ppg. But replacing a guy in Cunningham that averaged 20 ppg isn’t easy, so the coaching staff is hoping for big things in their latest five-star newcomer guard in Bryce Thompson.
He’s not a freshman five-star prospect but rather a rising sophomore after struggling a bit at Kansas last season. Thompson, a 6’5 combo guard out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, started out the campaign with a season-high 12 points in 5/10 off the bench against No. 1 Gonzaga. The hope was that he would be the team’s 6th man behind Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji in the backcourt, capable of playing multiple positions.
However, fortunes wouldn’t go Thompson’s way. He had several games in the non-conference with poor shooting performances, which set him back in the rotation. And he ended up playing one game in a month span during January after dealing with multiple injuries, including a bad back. Once Thompson was able to get back on the court, he had just one double-digit scoring game (11 points against Texas), before finishing with 10 points in the final five games of the season.
It was a disappointing end for Thompson, who decided to enter the transfer portal after the season. He opted to go close to home, with Oklahoma and Tulsa as the other two finalists. It’s important to note in Thompson’s defense that the Jayhawks roster, including a lead guard in Garrett that isn’t a true point guard and with the bizarre circumstances regarding a real offseason and covid overall, there wasn’t a chance for him to develop into the rotation.
Thompson now has a chance to excel at Oklahoma State. Likelele will be the lead ball-handler as a rising senior but there’s an opportunity for the former McDonald’s High School All-American to be a lead guard in his own right.
If he can earn a spot in the rotation, Thompson, Anderson, and Likelele (who can play and guard anywhere on the court) will form a quality backcourt on both ends. Thomspon averaged over 25 ppg in his final year of high school so we know he has the potential to be an elite college scorer.
There’s no question that Oklahoma State will take a step back after losing Cunningham. But if Thompson can break out and at least average double figures, the Cowboys have some real talent to make noise in the Big 12 and compete for another NCAA Tournament berth. This is a low-risk/high reward scenario that could work out well for both sides.