Basketball fans in Oklahoma will one day be able to watch an Ibaka play for two of their top in-state teams.
In addition to defensive standout Serge Ibaka starting for the Oklahoma City Thunder, younger brother Igor Ibaka has verbally committed to Oklahoma State.
Igor, a 6-foot-8 center, averaged 13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in his lone season of junior college basketball at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. At 22, he is too old to play in junior college again next season but he'll have to spend the 2014-15 school year completing his associate degree before enrolling at Oklahoma State in time to join the Cowboys for the 2015-16 season.
It's a testament to the younger Ibaka's rapid development that programs the caliber of Oklahoma State and Wichita State were among those to show interest. Since he is smaller and more unpolished than his older brother, it initially seemed as though he'd be more likely to land at a smaller-conference Division I program.
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M coach Dustin Grover told the Oklahoman he expects Ibaka to have either two or three years of eligibility at Oklahoma State depending on what the NCAA decides. Grover believes Ibaka can be an impact player in the Big 12, especially if he remains focused on improving his game next year even though he will not be playing in any games and will essentially be on his own.
"I think in order for him to compete at the Big 12 level in 2015, his skill set in the low post needs to improve a lot," Grover told the Oklahoman. "He’s got the jumpshot, got a face-up game and got the size. But in order to play at that level at a 6-foot-7 size, height, he’s going to have to improve his low-post ability to score. Doesn’t quite have that yet. So he has some growth to do over the next 12 months because the Big 12 is a high, major conference and he’s only played one year of college basketball."
Merely adding a player has to be a welcome change for Oklahoma State after an offseason that has featured more subtraction than addition.
Marcus Smart entered the NBA draft after his sophomore season. Standout guard Markel Brown and little-used big man Mason Cox exhausted their eligibility. Big man Kamari Murphy, fellow starting forward Brian Williams and big man Gary Gaskins are transferring. And point guard heir apparent Stevie Clark was dismissed from the program late in the season for repeated off-the-court issues.
Oklahoma State may be on the verge of plugging one of the holes created by those departures as the Cowboys are reportedly close to landing LSU transfer Anthony Hickey. Hickey, a three-year starter at point guard for the Tigers, could be eligible immediately for Oklahoma State if he were to receive a waiver due to the NCAA's seldom-used "run-off" rule.
For more information about Oklahoma State, visit OStateIllustrated.com.
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