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Cowboys lack experience, not talent

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Eddie Sutton gets a kick out of teaching the game of basketball. He should get plenty of opportunity to do that this season.

Four starters and seven seniors are gone from last year's team, which went 27-7 and came within one victory of advancing to the Final Four.

There isn't a senior on the roster this season. The Cowboys' most experienced player is junior Fredrik Jonzen, who blossomed late last year but still was regarded more as a rebounder and defender than a scorer.

``It's a little different this year,'' said Sutton, beginning his 11th year at Oklahoma State and his 31st as a college coach. ``This is the youngest and least experienced ballclub I think I've ever had. It's not the least talented.''

Jonzen, Jason Keep and Andre Williams are the only players with Big 12 experience. The Cowboys lost their top four scorers from a year ago _ Desmond Mason, who is now in the NBA, Brian Montonati, Glendon Alexander and Joe Adkins _ and they lost the Big 12's assist leader, Doug Gottlieb.

They will be replaced by a mix of freshmen, junior-college transfers and Division I transfers.

Forward Antoine Broxsie sat out last year after transferring from Minnesota but isn't yet eligible. Point guard Victor Williams is a transfer from Illinois State who is expected to play a lot, although juco transfer Maurice Baker has been impressive at the same position.

``He understands how to distribute the ball, but he really is a very good scorer,'' Sutton said of Baker. ``He can really shoot the basketball. He can penetrate and dish the ball off. I think that he'll be hard to keep out of the starting lineup.''

Unlike last year, Oklahoma State is not deep in the backcourt and the Cowboys aren't likely to shoot as well from the perimeter.

Their strength is their frontcourt depth. Jonzen, Keep and Broxsie are all 6-foot-10. Andre Williams is 6-7 but is a great jumper with a nose for the ball. Freshmen Terrence Crawford and David Anderson are forwards, and junior-college transfer Melvin Sanders can play in the frontcourt at 6-5.

``I think this is a touch-and-go situation with these guys,'' Sutton said. ``I think early, they're going to be very inconsistent. I hope by the time we get to conference we'll be a decent ballclub. We would hope that they do get better as the year goes by.''

The early part of the season will be a traveling show for the Cowboys. Their first home game isn't until Dec. 19 due to the renovation of Gallagher-Iba Arena. As a result, Oklahoma State will play exhibition games at Enid and Tulsa, then play regular-season games in Tulsa and Oklahoma City before finally getting to return for a true home game.

That kind of schedule wouldn't have been a concern with a veteran team, but is with this group, Sutton said.

``We just have to go kind of slow and really display a lot of patience,'' he said. ``That's the thing I would caution to all our fans _ be patient. But in time, I think this team can be a decent ballclub.''

Oklahoma State Cowboys At-A-Glance

Coach: Eddie Sutton: (10th year, 229-95 at Okla. St, 659-259 overall)

Last year's finish: 27-7, tie third in Big 12, lost to Florida 77-65 in NCAA final eight.

Welcome back: Forwards Fredrik Jonzen, Andre Williams, Jason Keep.

Wave goodbye: Forwards Desmond Mason, Brian Montonati, Alex Webber, guards Doug Gottlieb, Joe Adkins, Glendon Alexander.

Strengths: Frontcourt play, led by Jonzen and Williams.

Weaknesses: Lack of experience. Jonzen, Keep and Williams are the only players with Big 12 experience. Perimeter scoring also is a concern of Sutton's.

Quotable: ``This is the youngest and least experienced ball club I think I've ever coached. It's not the least talented.'' Eddie Sutton.
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