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When newly renovated Gallagher-Iba Arena opened last season, nobody could have guessed that the phrase "shrine to college basketball" would take on a new meaning for Oklahoma State. Less than a year after the horrific plane crash that killed 10 members of the Cowboys' traveling party, including two players, Oklahoma State is about to unveil another new feature: the sculpture in the arena's south lobby of a cowboy on one knee facing memorials to those who died last January. "We've healed some," coach Eddie Sutton says of the tragedy, "but not a day goes by that we don't think of those friends in some way or other."
One way to honor the fallen will be to play first-rate basketball, and with the return of senior guard Maurice Baker, the Cowboys will be capable of shaking the rafters at Gallagher-Iba. A transfer from Dixie ( Utah) College who arrived at Oklahoma State last season, the 6'1" Baker delighted Cowboys fans last year by averaging 19.8 points and a remarkable 6.7 rebounds. "For the first time in my career I let a guard go to the offensive boards," says Sutton, who's entering his 32nd season. "I've had three guards come from junior colleges and make the NBA, but none of them had the immediate impact Maurice had."
Oklahoma State's best teams have almost always had three-guard offenses, and when stocky juco transfer Cheyne Gadson recovers from minor preseason knee surgery, he should join Baker and junior Victor Williams (11.5 points per game) to constitute a formidable trio. Sutton even cautions that Baker's stats may drop somewhat because of the stronger lineup around him.
Inside, 6'10" senior forward Fredrik J�nz�n (pronounced Jon-ZEE-un) will try to improve on his 15.0 point average. J�nz�n hails from Uppsala, Sweden, and whenever the Cowboys play, his father, Jan, awakens in the middle of the night, plugs headphones into his laptop (so as not to wake his wife, Eva) and lies in bed listening to the game over the Internet. "It's pretty funny when somebody who doesn't know basketball tries to give advice," says J�nz�n. "He'll say things like, 'You've got to dribble the ball inside!' but he really doesn't know what he's talking about." J�nz�n should benefit from having played 25 games last summer with the Swedish national team (not to be confused with the Swedish bikini team).
Stamina could be a concern for Oklahoma State, however. Williams in particular struggled with his shooting down the stretch last season, the result of too many minutes in the Cowboys' point guard saddle.
As for Sutton, 65, he's the same tireless guy who has won 679 games in his long-running career. "They'll probably have to put him in a chair and wheel him out of the gym before he'll quit," says his wife, Patsy. It says here that this year's Cowboys will get the 21 wins Sutton needs to reach 700—and then some.
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