Feb 22, 2014; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart (33) and wing Le'Bryan Nash celebrate after a basket against Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Oklahoma State Cowboys won 84-62. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12: Le’Bryan Nash Will Now Dominate With Complete Offensive Freedom

From the time Le’Bryan Nash stepped onto Oklahoma State University’s campus as the No. 10 ranked recruit in a loaded 2011 class, someone who’s better suited for the spotlight and the weight of the team on their shoulders has overshadowed him. As freshman, that was the veteran Keiton Page and understandably so with Nash being fresh into the college scene and learning the ropes.

In fact, as a freshman, it was beginning to look like Nash was well on his way to being the Cowboys’ next great star player after being named to the Big 12 All-Rookie team and being named Co-Big 12 Rookie of the Year.

Feb 3, 2014; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys forward Le’Bryan Nash (2) during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Iowa State defeated Oklahoma State 98-97 in triple overtime. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Then along came Marcus Smart and we all know whose team the Cowboys were during his two-year stint at Oklahoma State. But along with Smart leading the team in scoring during his career in Stillwater, Markel Brown would also skip over Nash as the team’s secondary offensive option as his point production followed suit right behind Smart.

That’s his first three seasons — which is nearly unheard-of coming from a guy who was a top 10 recruit — in which Nash has taken a backseat while someone else steps in as the team’s go-to guy and leader. But his senior campaign should be much different as Smart and Brown are gone, as well as another handful of notables including big man Kamari Murphy and Brian Williams, who have both transferred.

Nash is now unquestionably the team’s most talented and valued asset and with six newcomers adding to the Cowboys’ roster, all of the pressure and opportunity to become the team’s star is now at his feet.

For Nash, becoming the best the Cowboys have to offer, in addition to being one of the most dominant in the Big 12 conference as a whole shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Nash saw his lowest amount of time per game at 29.9 minutes while shooting 325 total shots on the season, which is far from what would be considered as having limited offensive freedom. With Nash now clearly the best option for head coach Travis Ford, is should be a given that his minutes will increase to around 33 per game as his shot attempts should also greatly increase to an absolute minimum of four more attempts per game.

Nash has showed significant strides of improvement in his shooting efficiency as his percentages have increased from .394 as a freshman to .436 as a sophomore and finally an impressive .520 last season.

Assuming Nash will continue his usual growth and see his shooting percentage jump to around 56 percent, with what will likely be another 125-150 shots that come his way next season with the Cowboys losing their two most valued offensive weapons, seeing his scoring average as a junior of 13.9 per contest jump to around 17.5 shouldn’t come as a surprise.

In this scenario, which is very realistic, Nash will have finally become the offensive presence the Cowboys will need him to be in order to compete with the likes of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. As for his rebounding and whether 5.5 per game will increase, the same should go as it does for his scoring.

Between Smart and Brown, the two snagged 362 rebounds last season. Nash grabbed his own share of 188 but as the team’s leading returning rebounder, having two less tenacious rebounders to compete with will surely show a spike in his rebounding numbers as well, although those could be meaningless rebounds during a 20-point lead.

In the case of Nash, though, the scoring and liberty to finally become the primary option has always been the crutch between him and stardom. As I mentioned, that shouldn’t be much of an issue anymore since he will certainly be the best asset Oklahoma State has. That said, his final season in college will ultimately be the year in which Nash takes that next step as a guy whose name the entire college basketball world knows.

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Tags: Le'Byan Nash Oklahoma State Cowboys

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