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Monday, September 12, 2011
Oklahoma State scores in recruiting, too

By Eamonn Brennan

This morning, we took some time to discuss the rather surprising and potentially program-changing news out of Houston, where coach James Dickey convinced two talented local recruits, including five-star small forward Danuel House, to come to a once proud -- and now fledgling -- Cougars basketball program.

Houston wasn't the only school to make a recruiting splash over the weekend. As ESPN Recruiting analyst Dave Telep reported Saturday, Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford got some rather good news of his own this weekend in the form of commitments from a pair of high school and AAU teammates from Texas. One of those commitments came from shooting guard Phil Forte, who is ranked outside the ESPNU 100. But the other commitment came from shooting guard Marcus Smart, who just so happens to be the No. 11-ranked player in the class of 2012 and the No. 2-ranked player at his position in the class. Like House at Houston, he's a much more talented player than the school he's chosen is used to signing -- a multifaceted, athletic talent that scouts like as much for his skills as for his demeanor and leadership.

Thanks to the signing, Oklahoma State is now No. 12 in the 2012 ESPNU class rankings -- just one spot behind No. 11 Houston.

The Cowboys have a fascinating recruiting situation. The program comes with history and tradition and a fantastic building in Gallagher-Iba. It also comes with the kind of facilities -- including a $4 million locker room out of the "MTV Cribs" central casting -- that only a hyper-wealthy, hyper-generous donor ($165 million!) like T. Boone Pickens can buy. Despite those advantages, Oklahoma State has yet to establish itself as a major recruiting power. But the signing of 2011 recruit LeBryan Nash (the No. 3-ranked small forward in the class) and the weekend commitment from Smart indicate that may be changing.

Of course, facilities aren't everything. Successful recruiting comes from some mixture of a coach's skill, charisma and style of play, as well as his program's tradition and likelihood of immediate success. Facilities are just one part of the larger equation. But state of the art athletics facilities might the most important consideration many recruits make. (At the very least, college coaches seem to think so.) If that's the case, Oklahoma State has a serious pitch to make to the nation's elite talent. Can the Cowboys morph into a major player?