One of the many high profile coaching changes that took place in the off-season took place in Stillwater, Oklahoma when Brad Underwood replaced Travis Ford at Oklahoma State. He shows up on campus after three extremely successful seasons at Stephen F. Austin. He had an astonishing 89-14 record including a 53-1 mark in the Southland Conference.
In those three seasons at Stephen F. Austin he has three trips to the NCAA Tournament including wins over West Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth. The staples of Brad Underwood coached teams are an up tempo pace while playing lock down defense, a formula every coach wishes they could bottle up and patent, but Underwood seems to how found a way to do just that. Over his time with the Lumberjacks his teams averaged 78.2 points per game while only giving up only 63.6.
The difference in offensive styles of play between Travis Ford’s version of Oklahoma State and Underwood’s are pretty striking. Last year they ranked 303rd in points, this year 4th, last year 230th in three pointers, this year 95th, 233rd in steals last year, 4th this year and 252nd in turnover margin last year compared to 6th this year.
So far this season the Cowboys have really taken to Underwood’s up and down style averaging over 93 points per game. Individually there are a number of guys that have made a jump offensively and one of them is sophomore guard Juwan Evans.
The 6-1 guard from Kimball High School in Dallas, Texas was a McDonald’s All-American who was ranked as the #6 point guard and 33rd best recruit by ESPN. As a freshman Evans averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists which earned him the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year honors. His best game came against arch rival Oklahoma where he scored 42 points. He also led the Cowboys in an upset of #3 Kansas scoring 22 points with six rebounds and eight assists. After the season he went on to win a gold medal as a member of the U.S. team in the FIBA under-19 championships. With a coaching change there is always a bit of uncertainty. Evans has had a good relationship from the start with Coach Underwood, saying “When he came in we sat down and talked. We went over the system and I just felt it was good for me to stay.”
This year Evans has made a couple of adjustments to his game. He is putting up more shots than he did in his first year. Over the summer Evans said he worked on his decision making and his shooting and says, “I think I’ve done pretty well with my shooting and knocking down shots. My confidence goes up and everything just falls into place.” He is averaging 21.6 points per game good enough for 25th best in the country. Another aspect of his game that has improved is his defense. Evans has 24 steals on the season and last year he had a total of 25. Evans thinks that is a byproduct of Underwood’s style of play, saying, “He preaches defense defense.”
So far Underwood seems to be a nice fit for Oklahoma State as Evans and his teammates are flourishing in the new up tempo style of play. The Cowboys sit at 8-2 averaging over 93 points per game. They have two games left before the start of conference play, tomorrow at Wichita State and at home against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on 12/22. But conference play is where Evans and his teammates need to make strides as they have failed to finish above .500 in the Big 12 in the last three years. For the remainder of the year Evans has some lofty goals for himself and his team. He Said, “I would like to win Player of the Year and I’d like to make it deep into the tournament.” Those goals may or may not happen this year but under the tutelage of Brad Underwood don’t be surprised if Evans is able to accomplish both of those before his time in Stillwater is over.