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 Tuesday, November 2
Oklahoma State
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

LOCATION: Stillwater, OK
LAST SEASON: 23-11 (.670)
COLORS: Orange & Black
HOMECOURT: Gallagher-Iba Arena (6,381)
COACH: Eddie Sutton (Oklahoma State '58)
record at school 202-88 (9 years)
career record 632-252 (30 years)
ASSISTANTS: Sean Sutton (Oklahoma State '92)
Jimmy Williams (Ashland '70)
Kyle Keller (Oklahoma State '90)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 27-17-17-22-23
RPI (last 5 years) 9-45-46-33-48
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NCAA second round.

ESPN.com Clubhouse

Oklahoma State was a half-full, half-empty kind of team in 1998. Eddie Sutton and the Cowboys see the positives: 10 victories in the Big 12; an inspired run to the Big 12 Tournament title game; a first-round swatting of Syracuse in the NCAAs; and just a general good feeling about things heading into this season. All this with the most bizarre roster imaginable: one senior, one freshman, 11 juniors.

The half-empty forces point to a fifth-place finish in the Big 12 when the Cowboys were the preseason favorite. Oklahoma State somehow lost a game to Florida Atlantic, ending an 80-game homecourt winning streak against non-conference foes.

They were swept in the regular-season series by Oklahoma and Texas (although they got by both the Sooners and Longhorns in the conference tournament). And, after the victory over the Orangemen, a triumph over Auburn in the NCAA second round didn't seem out of the question. A little disappointment surrounding Oklahoma State's season isn't a bad thing. It means expectations run a little higher in Stillwater.

They should this season, as well. Sutton has a solid team that should challenge Kansas and Texas for the Big 12 title. "I'm pretty optimistic about this season after the way we played at the end of last year," Sutton said. "I like our makeup. I think this team's goal should be a conference championship." It has been in most seasons since Sutton arrived, although the Cowboys haven't won a conference championship since his first year (1991). Only Kansas and Missouri had finished first in the Big Eight/12 since until Texas' run last season.

The Cowboys are usually upper division. Their cumulative 28-20 record in three Big 12 seasons is fourth-best. Over the past two years, Oklahoma State is 21-11 in league play. The program thinks NCAA Tournament every year and is disappointed when it falls short. It's been a great decade in Stillwater for Sutton, who returned home after getting chased off in a cloud of scandal at Kentucky. Oklahoma State may have been the only program to which Sutton would have been welcomed with open arms, and he has repaid the hire by averaging 22.4 victories and reaching the NCAA Tournament seven times.

Those early years in Stillwater were almost therapeutic for Sutton. He chatted with his former coach and legend Henry Iba every day at practice. He inherited a talented team and took it farther than the Cowboys been in decades. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves developed in Sutton's early years.

Blue Ribbon Analysis

A few things have to happen for Oklahoma State to challenge for the Big 12 championship and make a deeper run in the NCAA Tournament. First, Mason must become a star. He is very close, and was terrific against Syracuse and Auburn last March. But he can also disappear, as he did with a four-point effort at Kansas late in the regular season.

Also, the Cowboys are going to need more consistent shooting from Adkins and Alexander. Oklahoma State figures to get about 75 percent of their scoring from those two, plus Mason.

But Sutton somehow finds a way, and this shapes up as a team he's going to enjoy coaching. The starters are players he has worked with for at least two years. He'll have young talent coming off the bench in Williams and Lawson, but the pressure won't be too great for them.

Finally, this will be the last year Oklahoma State will squeeze opponents into tiny, raucous Gallagher-Iba Arena. The ancient building doubles in size next year. Architects insists the building will retain its charm and intimacy. We'll see. Gallagher-Iba is truly one of the most unique places in the nation.

Draw your own conclusions. Senior lineup final year of a building aging coach perhaps the stars are aligned for Sutton's best year.

"When Mr. Iba was alive, he'd be at practice every day, just sitting on press row watching," Sutton said. "It was a great joy for me to be able to go over there and sit and talk basketball with him every day."

With Norm Stewart gone at Missouri, Sutton becomes the most experienced Big 12 coach. It's not a bad time to start thinking about his Hall of Fame credentials: 600-plus victories; two Final Fours; the only coach to take four different programs to the NCAA Tournament.

So how much time remains for the 63-year-old in Stillwater? Would he consider riding out in a blaze of glory this year or next if Oklahoma State goes deep in the postseason? Possibly. With his son, Sean, advancing to the top assistant's role now that Paul Graham and Randall Dickey have moved on, Sutton would like nothing better than to recruit like a demon over the next couple of years then turn over a strong program to his son.

The best chance for that kind of season could be now. The Cowboys have four returning starters, including one of the Big 12's best players in Desmond Mason. No team that finished in the upper half of the Big 12 returns more of its starting lineup. Mason is one of eight seniors on the roster. Five of them played at least 15 games a year ago.

The last time Sutton had this many seniors was 1995, and the Cowboys wound up in the Final Four. This senior class strives to become fifth in school history to play in three NCAA Tournaments. That should be the least of its accomplishments.

(6-6, 207 lbs., SR, SF, #34, 15.4 ppg, 7.9, rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.9 bpg, 34.7 minutes, .480 FG, .342 3PT, .746 FT, Waxahachie HS/Waxahachie, Tex.)

As a freshman, he shattered a backboard in an October practice and was named Big 12 preseason Newcomer of the Year. But the transition was too difficult and Mason averaged only 4.5 ppg.

He broke through as a sophomore, averaging 14.6 ppg and was considered the league's most improved player. Last season Mason was even better, earning All-Big 12 honors. The next step is Big 12 Player of the Year.

It could happen. Mason is a dynamic performer, capable of monster games. He shredded Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 20 of his 28 points in the first half. He also scored 20 points in the first half against Texas.

Sutton called Mason the best athlete he ever recruited. But not until Mason made a commitment to improve his perimeter shooting did he begin to live up to his potential. Mason came to Oklahoma State with a dunk and not much else in his bag of shots. His three-point shooting still isn't where he'd like it (.342), but it's better than the 31 percent he dragged around as a sophomore.

"He probably made as much improvement as anyone on the team," Sutton said. "He'd always been a good defender and a good rebounder. But once he started making the perimeter shot and short jumpers, he became the player he is now."

Mason said his game hit a growth spurt during the summer between his sophomore and junior season, when he served as a camp counselor and played evening pickup games against other counselors some of the nation's top college players.

Mason has one of the best all-around games in the Big 12. He posts up, shoots the jumper and remains one of the league's premier dunkers. He could become the Cowboys' first conference Player of the Year since Bryant Reeves in 1995.

(6-1, 180, SR, PG, #44, 4.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 8.5 apg, 28.2 minutes, .329 FG, .250 3PT, .459 FT, Tustin HS/Tustin, Calif. & Notre Dame)

Some players look "pass" first and shot second. Gottlieb looks "pass" first, second and third. And only if he's open, wide open, does he attempt a shot. Even then, it's a one-of-three chance. That's how he became the nation's leader in assists.

Gottlieb is one strange dude. He wears a different brand of shoes than his teammates and he wears a pair two sizes small because he likes the way it feels.

And he loves to chat. Any subject, anytime. He'll light up a press conference, he'll converse an entire game with the opposing guard. Nobody argues because he gets results. And assists. Nobody dishes it out quite like Gottlieb.

But he does have a serious side. Gottlieb wasn't entirely pleased with a sophomore year at Oklahoma State in which he averaged 6.4 apg but shot 48 percent from the line. It meant the Cowboys had to yank him in the late moments of close games.

Gottlieb promised to change. He worked with consultants, free-throw shooting experts, anybody who had an opinion. He only got worse. And again, Oklahoma State couldn't function with its starting point guard in the final moments of a nail-biter.

All of Gottlieb's shooting is bad. He offers no excuses and understands why defenses invite him to fire away.

"I haven't shown that I'm a quality shooter and, until I do, they're not going to guard me," Gottlieb said.

He did have one breakout game, a 15-pointer against Southern Mississippi. That night he made five of 10 field goals, career bests.

As long as Gottlieb finds the open man, which he always does, he has a spot in the starting lineup even if he isn't in the ending lineup.

(6-2, 190 lbs., SR, SG, #35, 10.0 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.4 rpg, 27.7 minutes, .377 FG, .343 3PT, .750 FT, John Marshall HS/Oklahoma City, Okla.)

Adkins' scoring fell off by nearly two points and so did most of his percentages, but that was simply to accommodate the two "go-to" players Peterson and Mason. Adkins was always the third choice in the offense, but when the seconds ticked off at the end of close games, he was the target.

At Kansas, Adkins brought the Cowboys back from a nine-point deficit in the final 3:16 by nailing three from behind the arc. He won a game against Nebraska with a late trey and keyed a victory over UNLV by hitting three bombs in the final five minutes.

So, the .343 three-point percentage is somewhat misleading. Adkins hit them when they counted most. With Peterson gone, Adkins must score more.

He is certainly capable. Besides, he likes senior seasons. In high school, he was Oklahoma's Player of the Year in 1996 after leading John Marshall HS to the state championship in the largest classification.

(6-5, 215 lbs., SR, SG, #4, 9.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 24.5 minutes, .395 FG, .391 3PT, .836 FT, Newman Smith HS/Carrollton, Tex. & and University of Arkansas)

If Alexander starts, it would give Oklahoma State a modern college rarity: five senior starters.

Alexander checked into the Cowboys program a year ago after transferring from Arkansas and sat out the first semester. There were high hopes for his college career after becoming the leading scorer in Texas high school history (he averaged 34.5 ppg as a senior and totaled 1,113 points).

His one-and-a-half years at Arkansas weren't exactly a bust. He averaged 7.9 ppg as a freshman and was named to the SEC All-Freshmen team. Alexander also started 16 games, made 35 percent of his three pointers and did all this on a bad knee.

Halfway through his sophomore year, Alexander decided he didn't like the future at Arkansas and headed to Oklahoma State. But the Cowboys had a numbers problem, also. Adrian Peterson was playing Alexander's position and he wasn't about to become dislodged.

Still, Sutton found 15 starts for Alexander and nearly 25 minutes per game. He started the final seven games and did not disappoint. He scored a career-high 23 points against Baylor in the Big 12 tourney and was named to the All-Tournament team. He tied the event record by making 16 three-pointers.

This year, Alexander steps in for Peterson. It will make for a small starting lineup, along with Gottlieb, Adkins, Mason and Webber. But it's tough defensively and, if Oklahoma State gets any scoring from Gottlieb and Webber, it could be the most dangerous lineup in the Big 12.

(6-10, 257 lbs., SR, C, #45, 6.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.4 apg, 21.5 minutes, .594 FG, .671 FT, Searcy HS/Searcy, Ark.)

It all started to make sense for Webber toward the end of last season. He spent his first two years in college playing with a bad back and not helping much at all. Then, for much of last season, Webber would punch in about six points and five rebounds in about 25. Mostly, he didn't get in the way.

But, starting with a 22-point game in the regular season finale against Texas Tech, Webber began flexing his muscles. A follow dunk over Texas center Chris Mihm was the highlight reel play of the Big 12 Tournament.

"If he plays this year like he did the final few games last season, I'll be a happy coach," Sutton said.

Webber averaged 10 points and seven rebounds in the final two regular season games as well as the Big 12 Tournament. One area that needs improvement is turnovers. In two games last season, he kicked it away seven times.

Webber arrived at Oklahoma State as a consensus Top 100 prospect, Sutton's seventh high school player recruited from Arkansas. Injuries, partly attributed to an auto accident, really slowed his development.

(6-9, 220 lbs., SR, F, #30, 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.6 bpg, 18.0 minutes, .509 FG, .805 FT, Fullerton CC & Orchard View HS/Muskegon, Mich.)

When Alex Webber wasn't producing, Eddie Sutton didn't hesitate to go with Montonati, who is a little smoother around the basket. He got fewer minutes than Webber (and no starts) but averaged more points.

Montonati made the some strides after averaging 2.9 ppg as a junior. Oklahoma State went into the season with center as its biggest concern after the departure of Brett Robisch. Combined, Montonati and Webber didn't make up for the loss, but they didn't kill the position.

"There were times when he played harder than anyone on our team," Sutton said of Montonati.

During one four game stretch, he averaged 12.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg. More production like that, and he'll get more minutes and starts in the middle.

(6-10, 230 lbs., SO, F, #12, 2.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 12.1 minutes, .469 FG, .429 FT, Katderalskolan/Uppsala, Sweden)

Jonzen backed up the pivot, played every game and turned in some impressive efforts. When Webber got into foul trouble against Texas in the Big 12 Tournament, Jonzen logged a career-high 21 rebounds and had four offensive boards.

Jonzen played in is native Sweden this summer. He's a smarty, too, a first-team academic All-Big 12 selection.

(6-6, 207 lbs., JR, G, #3, 15.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 3.4 spg, .363 3PT, Mott CC, Mich. & Mackenzie HS/Detroit, Mich.)

It's getting a little crowded in the Oklahoma State backfield, but Sutton couldn't turn down a potential talent such as Lawson. He was the Michigan community college Player of the Year and helped Mott CC to a 26-6 record last season. Mott is NJCAA Division II.

"Skilled, versatile, can play several positions on the perimeter," Sutton said. "He has a chance to help us right away. He has a chance to play because he can shoot."

Look for Lawson to spell Mason, Alexander and Adkins and average about 25 minutes per game.

(6-9, 220 lbs., FR, F, #40, 15.1 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 3.4 bpg, .528 FG, Maine Central Institute & Schlagle HS/Kansas City, Kan.)

Williams signed out of Schlagle HS last November and spent a year at Maine Central. He could make an impact for the Cowboys in the middle, where there are some holes.

Defense is his specialty. Williams averaged 13 blocks per game at Schlagle. He has a 15-foot shooting range.

Williams is also the team's only freshman.

(6-2, 180 lbs., SR, G, #24, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, five appearances, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M & Miami HS/Miami, Okla.)

Sooter is a walk-on who appeared in five games during the 1998-99 season. He got on the stat sheet once with a steal against Texas Tech.

(6-11, 290 lbs., SO, C, 15.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg, North Idaho College & Moscow HS/Moscow, Id.)

It had to be Bryant Reeves.

When Sutton and the strength staff at Oklahoma State turned Reeves from a tub of fluff into an All-America and NBA millionaire, every 300-pound center in the country had to take notice. Keep has some of the same qualities as a young Reeves soft hands, a nice shooting touch and much room for improvement.

Keep had a 31-point game a year ago, his junior college career-best.

(6-5, 220 lbs., JR, G-F, #42, 7.7 ppg at Centenary in 1997-98, also Northern Oklahoma College & Ripley HS/Stillwater, Okla.)

Cazzelle redshirted last season after transferring from Northern Oklahoma, where he played with former Oklahoma State guard Jared Weiberg. He started his career at Centenary and played in 27 games as a freshman. He scored in double figures nine times.

Cazzelle will come off the bench occasionally to backup Adkins and Alexander.

(7-2, 370 lbs., JR, C, #54, Panola JC & Baker HS/Baton Rouge, La.)

Candley didn't finish his junior college requirements last summer and couldn't enroll at Oklahoma State until December of last season. He practiced with the Cowboys, but never suited up.

Seeing Candley in uniform should be a treat for fans this season. He's one of the largest players in college basketball. And he's actually about 20 pounds lighter than when he enrolled. No doubt, Sutton would like to see about 70 more pounds come off. But Candley's playing status is in limbo because Sutton suspended him indefinitely for repeatedly missed workouts.

Candley averaged 17 points, nine rebounds and shot 78 percent from the line at Panola. It's difficult to see him ever being more than a fan favorite, however.

(6-4,S G, 17.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 34.8 minutes, .450 FG, .408 3 PT, .746 FT)

During an NBA tryout camp in Chicago, Peterson tore an ACL and went undrafted. Hopefully, he'll make money at this game someday. But, if he doesn't Peterson picked up his business degree in May.

Peterson worked hard to make his senior season the best it could be. He led the Cowboys in scoring for the third straight year, averaged in double figures all four, but stepped up and became more of a leader in his final campaign.

Peterson finished as the third leading scorer in school history behind Byron Houston and Bryant Reeves. He ranks in the program's top 10 in 11 statistics.

The Big 12 hands out several awards, but it does not recognize an individual sportsmanship honor. If it did, Peterson would have won it going away. He was one of the nicest people to wear the Cowboys' uniform and showed his true character after one of the most bitter losses of his career.

With Oklahoma State on the verge of breaking a 14-year losing streak at Kansas, Peterson was whistled for a foul on the Jayhawks' Ryan Robertson some 35 feet away from the basket while he was trying to fling up a desperation three-pointer. Robertson sold the foul and made a free throw with no time on the clock.

"A lot of kids would have refused to talk to the media about that, or would have been in there pounding on the locker and yelling obscenities," Sutton said. "Adrian met the media and answered every question. That was an example of a class individual."

(6-7, F, 1.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 5.7 minutes, seven appearances)

Gilmore is transferring out after an injury-riddled season. He scored 15 points in a preseason game and figured to find some minutes before suffering a knee injury early in the year. He is looking elsewhere for playing time.

Wherever he lands, it will be his fourth college. Gilmore previously attended Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Tyler (Tex.) CC.

(6-3, G, 0.8 ppg, four appearances)

Weiberg gained a little celebrity last year when his uncle, Kevin, was named Big 12 commissioner. The younger Weiberg moves into an administrative position in the Cowboys' basketball office.

Pivot scoring? Webber, Montonati and Jonzen shoot it well, but not often enough to scare defenses.

Focus? We mention this only because the Cowboys learned what can happen when their minds wander. Florida Atlantic jolted Oklahoma State in one of last season's biggest upsets.

Leader? Peterson was clearly the Cowboys "go-to" player a year ago. Mason needs to be that player this season.

Mason! It's his time to be an All-Conference performer.

Defense! It has tended to get overlooked in the past few years because of some terrific individual efforts, but Sutton's teams still play some of the best defense in the Big 12.

Sutton! One of the top coaches in the game, especially in the postseason.

Experience! Is anybody else in college basketball starting five seniors?

The 19th edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook is on sale now. To order, call 800-828-HOOP (4667), or visit their web site at http://www.collegebaskets.com

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