STILLWATER – Rebound like Christien Sager. That’s what Travis Ford is telling his Oklahoma State players.
“In practice, that’s what I’m saying,” Ford said. “There’s a whole lot more guys on our team that are more athletic than he is and taller than he is and more talented than he is.
“But when you have the desire and will to do something, it’s amazing what can be accomplished.”
Because of his energetic play, Sager, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, has earned valuable minutes for the Cowboys, who continue Big 12 play at home against West Virginia on Saturday.
“There’s only one thing I can control out there, and it’s how hard I play,” Sager said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”
When Sager entered Monday’s 64-54 loss at Baylor midway through the first half, he instantly elevated his team’s level of intensity, plus contributed a pair of rebounds.
“I think he’s a bit of a surprise to people when he gets in the game,” Ford said. “The longer he plays, the more they’re going to realize you better do certain things.
“I like players I know what I’m going to get from. If I know what I’m going to get, I’m going to put you in the right place, usually. I know what I’m going to get from him.”
Does that mean Ford wasn’t surprised when Sager blocked Baylor’s 7-foot-1 center Isaiah Austin?
“That was very much unexpected,” Ford said with a laugh.
The block was initially credited to Le’Bryan Nash but has since been corrected and attributed to Sager.
“I didn’t even know what happened, honestly,” Sager said of his block. “I was going to take a charge and he kind of pulled up. I was going to contest it and then he double-pumped it or something. My hand was just there.”
It seems Sager has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. After averaging 19 points a game as a senior at Rider High School in Wichita Falls, Texas, Sager turned down Division II and small D-I offers to walk on at OSU.
“I literally had no idea what I was coming into,” said Sager, whose dad played basketball at Utah State and Midwestern State.
“In high school, I was never around this type of talent all the time, and once I got here, it was a little hard to adjust to being around guys who can all score and can all play. In high school, I was kind of the guy.”
He may not be “the guy” for the Cowboys, but Sager is a fan favorite. In a recent home game, the student section began chanting his name and went crazy when Sager hit a shot.
That type of following is typically reserved for walk-ons, which Sager no longer is. Last season, an unforeseen one-year scholarship allowed Sager to cancel student loans, and then the scholarship was renewed for this year.
An electrical engineering major who was a high school salutatorian and scored 33 on his ACT, Sager is intelligent enough to find ways to contribute.
“We have a lot of guys who can score,” he said. ” … That’s not my role right now. I’m just out there to make hustle plays, rebound and play good defense.”
Vs. West Virginia
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Forte to give up retired number
Starting Saturday, Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte will wear a different jersey number.
Forte, a freshman, has switched to No. 13 after wearing No. 10 for the first 17 games of the season, until OSU realized its oversight: The No. 10 jersey was retired two years ago in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of 10 men associated with the Cowboy basketball program.
Jersey Nos. 3 and 11 were retired after the crash in honor of Daniel Lawson and Nate Fleming, two players who were killed. When current freshman Marcus Smart arrived at OSU, he requested No. 3 – his high school number – but settled for 33.
As is done every year, a moment of silence will be observed before Saturday’s game in remembrance of the plane crash’s 12th anniversary, which is Sunday.
– Kelly Hines, World Sports Writer
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452