KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tyrek Coger had been on Oklahoma State’s campus for less than three weeks before he collapsed and died during an off-season workout. A 6-foot-9 forward, he had arrived in Stillwater and hoped to help with the Cowboys’ lack of height.
His locker remains preserved and empty.
“It’s hard to see that locker and know he’s not there,” Oklahoma State sophomore guard Jawun Evans said Tuesday during Big 12 basketball media days. “We hardly got to know him but he’s gonna forever be with us. We’re gonna play for him every day.”
Coger wound up at Oklahoma State through a series of phone calls from Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, who was hoping to find a Division I team for Coger. One of the calls he made was to West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who didn’t have a scholarship available. Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood, who had been hired by Huggins at K-State, did have an open spot.
“Thankfully, I’ve never had to go through something like that,” Huggins said. “I can’t imagine going through that.”
The autopsy ruled that Coger, 21, died from an enlarged heart. In addition to keeping his locker intact, the team plans to wear shooting shirts in his honor.
“We use the word ‘family’ a lot and we don’t use the word lightly,” Underwood said. “Tyrek was only there 17 days but that doesn’t mean he’s not part of this team … it’s very difficult, still.
“There’s no manual, no instructions … no person should have to go through there. We’ll never forget, I won’t let ‘em forget. Our players haven’t dealt with tragedy, death. Life goes on, it doesn’t stop. You have to lead other young people.”
Singles, not home runs
Texas coach Shaka Smart doesn’t have a pure point guard on his roster to replace Isaiah Taylor, who declared for the NBA Draft after his junior season. The Longhorns figure to go with a point-guard-by-committee approach.
“If I pulled up our practice stats, our most glaring shortcoming right now is assist-to-turnover ratio,” he said.
Sophomores Kerwin Roach, Jr. and Eric Davis, along with freshman Andrew Jones, could see time running the Texas offense. Smart’s teaching process currently involves trying to convince them to make the easy pass or the simple play.
“I’m a Cubs fan and in the context of the World Series, I showed the guys some clips of guys hitting singles that turned to be big hits in games,” Smart said. “My message to these guys is, ‘Just hit a single, man. You don’t have to hit a homer every play.’ If you swing for the fences, a lot of times you’re gonna strike out.”
Save the dates
Here are some of the top non-conference games for Big 12 teams this season:
- Nov. 11, Kansas vs. Indiana.
- Nov. 15, Kansas vs. Duke.
- Nov. 15, Oregon at Baylor.
- Dec. 1, Cincinnati at Iowa.
- Dec. 3, Oklahoma at Wisconsin.
- Dec. 3 at Maryland.
- Dec. 3, West Virginia at Virginia.
- Dec. 17, Texas vs. Arkansas.
- Jan. 28, Kansas at Kentucky.
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins on his fellow coaches picking the Mountaineers to finish second in the Big 12 pre-season poll:
“All those guys lied. They lied. There isn’t one of those guys that don’t think they’re going to beat us. So why would they vote for a second if they think they’re going to beat us? I don’t believe them.”
Curtis Shaw, Big 12 coordinator of men’s basketball officials:
“You’ve heard everybody talk about the Big 12, how competitive we are, how hard a league it is as a coach and a player. It’s the same thing for referees. It’s the greatest league in the world to referee. I think we’ve had great success. For example, last year, seven of the nine officials in the Final Four worked games for us. So I think we’ve got a great staff, great group to work with, with our coaches and players.”
Baylor coach Scott Drew on the Big 12’s 18-game round-robin schedule:
“I there is no better feeling as a coach or as a team to be able to have a true champion. You play everybody home and away, and at the end of the day, that’s equal. That’s fair. Not only is it great competition, but you have a proven winner. You can’t argue, ‘Well, they didn’t play so-and-so or they didn’t have to play him twice.’ So you love having a true champion.”