STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ After a difficult year last season, Eddie Sutton says he gave some thought to stepping down.
He may be glad he didn't.
The Cowboys have all their starters back from last year, when they overcame a fatal plane crash to win 20 games and go to the NCAA tournament. This year's team has more depth in the backcourt than last year, and Sutton's best teams have always been strong at the guard position.
``I think we have good talent, maybe the best we've had for a while,'' Sutton said. ``The problem all coaches are always concerned about is the chemistry of the team, if everyone will be willing to accept their role.''
Most of the starting roles are clearly defined. Maurice Baker, an all-conference pick and the league's top newcomer after averaging 19.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game a year ago, is again joined by Victor Williams in the backcourt. But unlike last year, when Baker and Williams averaged 37 and 33 minutes per game, they have some help.
Aaron Hill, a junior college transfer, is expected to provide scoring punch from the perimeter _ he hit 45 percent of his shots from 3-point range last year. Another guard, Cheyne Gadson, averaged 22 points per game in junior college last season.
Oklahoma State's other returning starters are forwards Fredrik Jonzen, Andre Williams and Melvin Sanders.
The 6-foot-10 Jonzen averaged 15 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year, and begins this season with the added experience of having played with the Swedish National Team during the summer. He and Baker provide the Cowboys with one of the top inside-outside combinations in the league.
``Fredrik I think can have every bit or better a season than he had a year ago,'' Sutton said. ``I think his experience in playing with his national team has helped him.''
Andre Williams could be pushed for playing time by Antoine Broxsie and newcomer Ivan McFarlin. The 6-foot-7 McFarlin, who sat out last season as a partial qualifier, will be looked upon to help rebound _ he averaged 15 rebounds per game as a senior in high school.
The Cowboys open the season with six games in nine days. They begin at home against Cincinnati on Nov. 16, then play Austin Peay the next afternoon. The nonconference schedule also includes away games against Arkansas, Providence and Fresno State.
Then there's the Big 12, which Sutton said is stronger than ever.
``I think the thing that will make the league a lot better is some of the other teams that really made good progress,'' he said. ``The bottom half of the conference is just going to be a lot tougher. There's not going to be any gimmes on the schedule.''
The Cowboys were rocked last year by a plane crash that killed 10 people, including two players. The small plane went down outside of Denver as the team returned from a game against Colorado.
Sutton and his players spent the rest of the season answering questions related to the crash, something the coach said he hopes will subside this year.
``I try to tell our team and coaches, it's something that will always be with us, but I think you have to think to the future and not dwell on the past,'' he said.
``I think for the most part those guys would like to get on with the upcoming season and not dwell on last year.''