Even without NCAA title, Boggan better after journey

Wednesday, November 1st 2006, 3:23 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ If Mario Boggan's basketball journey had ended three stops ago, he might already have a national championship ring. Instead, he's just now finding a home at Oklahoma State.

After hopping between seven schools in seven years, Boggan finally will play for the same school in two consecutive seasons when he takes the court with the Cowboys this season.

``It's been a crazy journey,'' Boggan said Wednesday at the team's annual media day.

Boggan's travels began after his sophomore year of at South Durham (N.C.) High School. The next year he was at Oak Hill Academy, then Hargrave Military Academy for his senior year. He started college at Florida before leaving because he wasn't getting playing time. Next up was a brief stop at St. Bonaventure, where he was dismissed before even playing a game, and then a year at Chipola College in Florida.

Boggan, 23, came to Oklahoma State last year and was an instant hit, leading the Cowboys in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and free throw shooting as they went 17-16 and wound up in the NIT.

If he had only stayed at Florida, he could have an NCAA title already. Last year, when the Gators emerged from the Final Four as the champions, would have been Boggan's senior year of college.

``I still feel like I was part of that team,'' said Boggan, who still keeps in touch with Joakim Noah and others from the Gators.

But Boggan is so far removed from the player he was back then. Gators coach Billy Donovan and former teammates told him they barely recognized him when they saw him on television playing for Oklahoma State. Back when he played at Florida, Boggan carried more than 310 pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame.

With the elimination of some late-night pizzas and more focus on conditioning, Boggan is now a trim 240 pounds and he's no longer just a big body under the basket.

``I feel like a different person,'' he said.

Cowboys coach Sean Sutton sees the difference, too. Boggan spent the summer working on his 3-point shooting to the extent that he hit 29 in two rounds to win a 3-point competition at the team's preseason scrimmage while teamed with an OSU women's player.

Sutton now expects Boggan to be able to fill a role similar to that of Joey Graham, a first-round draft pick by the Toronto Raptors in 2005.

``He's not the type of athlete Joey was, but he can do a lot with the ball,'' Sutton said.

Boggan might not be the player he is now if it weren't for the globe-trotting trek that led him to Stillwater. He credits Donovan for helping provide him with a solid base for his basketball skills, and then his year at junior college gave him something he wasn't getting at Florida _ playing time.

``I got to kind of figure my game out and do different things,'' Boggan said.

After that, Boggan flirted with the idea of going straight to professional basketball, mostly because he wasn't sure if his grades would allow him to continue his college career.

``I think he'd be the first to tell you that he wasn't very disciplined,'' Sutton said.

That's no longer a problem for Boggan, Sutton said. Instead, Sutton has been impressed with the senior's focus in the classroom and on the court. He's expecting even more from Boggan, who averaged 14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds last season.

``I think he's going to have a big year,'' Sutton said.