NEW YORK – At times during Oklahoma State’s loss to Virginia Tech on Friday, it seemed like the Cowboys were missing something.
That something was LeBryan Nash, and he was sitting on the bench. The team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder played only 11 minutes in the 59-57 defeat, not starting for the first time all season. He went 0-for-3 from the field and not getting a point or rebound.
Nash also didn’t seem overly excited about sitting on the bench, often standing on the periphery of team huddles and not showing the same enthusiasm as his teammates.
“I don’t know,” head coach Travis Ford said when asked how he thought Nash dealt with the decreased playing time. “I haven’t even thought about it. I don’t know.”
In order for Oklahoma State to be a factor in the Big 12 standings, or even come close to competing for an NCAA tournament bid, Nash is going to have to be the Cowboys’ go-to player. He’s certainly the most talented guy on the roster, entering Stillwater as a five-star recruit and a top-10 prospect by everyone.
He’s shown flashes of his potential, going for 18 points and nine rebounds against UTSA in an overtime win earlier this season. Moreover, his numbers look pretty good overall – 13.0 points and 5.5 rebounds.
What Nash still needs to improve upon, though, is bringing complete effort on a consistent basis.
“LeBryan’s a very important part of our team,” Ford said. “For us to maximize our team, you need your best players, your most talented players, to play hard. Just because you’re talented, things aren’t going to come easy for you.”
Oklahoma State was competitive without him, making an impressive run in the second half – a half where Nash only played two minutes. J.P. Olukemi and Markel Brown stepped up on the wings, combining for 32 points and 16 rebounds.
Nash, though, takes the team to a new level. The Cowboys needed his size and athleticism at the forward position, as they were allowed Virginia Tech to nab 21 offensive rebounds, converting them into 22 second-chance points.
Offensively, Nash has the potential to be a matchup nightmare. He’s long, athletic and he knows how to score in different ways. There are other players on Oklahoma State who can create their own shot, but not to the same extent as Nash. He’s one of the most explosive offensive players in the Big 12.
“He’s a very talented individual,” Ford said. “He’s in the process of learning. He’s learning about playing with a competitive edge, playing every possession like it’s your last possession.”
After back-to-back losses, Oklahoma State needs to bounce back. Ford liked the effort and body language in this game much better than Wednesday’s loss to Stanford, but that alone might not be enough during a tough four-game stretch in mid-December. The Cowboys play Missouri State, Pittsburgh, New Mexico and Alabama in a two-week span, before facing SMU and this same Virginia Tech team before Big 12 play.
Ford is confident Nash will be a factor in the near future.
“LeBryan’s going to be fine,” Ford said. “He may play 30 minutes next game.
Oklahoma State better hope that’s true.
Photo: US Presswire