The Cowboys’ basketball season opens at 8 p.m. Monday against Abilene Christian at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
STILLWATER — Jarius Hicklen has played in 109 college games between his time at North Florida and Oklahoma Baptist. Another player new to OSU is Connor Dow, a 6-foot-6 three-star recruit out of Broken Arrow. College experience: none.
Coach Mike Boynton brought in the vet and the kid to alleviate OSU’s biggest offensive problem.
“Jarius Hicklen has been shooting the ball really well,” Boynton said. “Connor Dow has been shooting the ball really well. It’s a thing that we’ve been really intentional about. Not only practicing better, but in recruiting trying to identify guys who could shoot the ball better. It’s been an Achilles heel for us, quite honestly for the last few years.”
The Cowboys were tied for the worst 3-point percentage in the Big 12 last season, shooting 31%. That was an improvement on 2021-22, when OSU made a Big 12-low 161 3-pointers on 29.5% shooting.
OSU hasn’t finished in the top half of the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage since 2018-19, when Thomas Dziagwa and Lindy Waters led the Cowboys to a conference-best 37%.
OSU was eight-for-25 (32%) against Oklahoma Baptist in its exhibition. Dow made three of four 3-point attempts. Boynton said he hopes the signs he’s seen of good perimeter shooting transfer from practice.
“Shooting is a real thing in this game,” Boynton said. “And if you can find a way to consistently make threes you’ll give yourself a chance on most nights.”
Expect Dow, whom Boyton compared to Dziagwa, and Hicklen to bolster OSU’s three-point percentage. Although those two will get much of the designed opportunities, Boynton said every player on his roster has a decent shooting stroke.
“I do feel like that could be a strength of ours this year in a way that it just hasn’t been; certainly since Lindy (Waters) and Thomas (Dziagwa) were here,” Boynton said.
Javon Small, Jamyron Keller banged up: Javon Small generated a lot of offseason buzz, but OSU fans may have to wait to see if the dynamic point guard who transferred from East Carolina. Small’s final season at ECU ended on Jan. 11 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury. “It’s been an issue from last year but nothing long-term,” Boynton said.
Jamyron Keller, a freshman who was the Texas 5A player of the year at Ellison High School, sat out in OSU’s exhibition last week. Boynton said he is nicked up with wrist/thumb injury.
Both are questionable for the season opener. John-Michael Wright will likely handle point guard duties if Small misses the opener. Bryce Thompson can fill that role as well. “I think this group is more of an offensive-oriented group with a lot of shooters, a lot of guys that can make plays on and off the ball,” Wright said.
Cowboys using heartbreak as fuel: OSU has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2021. That almost changed last season, but the Cowboys were the so-called first team out of the field. Boynton isn’t shying away from bringing up the heartbreak. “It’s not like an everyday thing, but there was definitely a point in time where he was like, ‘This is where we were last year,’” Thompson said.