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Oklahoma State basketball: Why Avery Anderson III is finally comfortable with his role

Oklahoma State's Avery Anderson III, left, goes past Baylor's Jared Butler earlier this season. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma State's Avery Anderson III, left, goes past Baylor's Jared Butler earlier this season. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

STILLWATER — A year ago, Oklahoma State guard Avery Anderson III didn’t feel right as he shot the basketball.

His hands were too high. His confidence wavered.

In high school, he was a scoring machine. He could hit shots all over the court. He could get to the basket.

But college wasn’t as easy.

“That transition was weird for me,” Anderson said.

A year can make all the difference for a young college basketball player. Anderson spent the COVID-19 shutdown working at home in Justin, Texas, with his father and a friend’s father.

More than six months later, Anderson is comfortable.

Entering Saturday’s game with No. 6-ranked Texas, Anderson is a steadying presence in the Cowboys’ starting five.

Anderson has averaged 10.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists over the past nine games since he entered the starting lineup.

It’s a stark difference from last season when Anderson averaged 3.8 points and shot a dismal 8.7% from 3-point range in 30 games.

He’s just comfortable with himself in his second year.

“We always talk about process,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said. “It’s a real thing. Guys have to learn college basketball, how they can do the things that we’re expecting from them without losing who they were that got them here.

“Avery was a ball-dominant, elite, athletic scoring guard in high school, really all his life.”

Anderson has also settled in defensively.

He’s a catalyst atop the Cowboys’ aggressive man-to-man defense and mix of zones. He’s averaged 1.3 steals since becoming a starter.

Anderson knew he had the capability to be a playmaker.

He just had to find his role. Last season, he was a backup. This season, he’s not the main scoring threat with Cade Cunningham and Isaac Likekele on the floor.

So, Anderson focused in the long offseason on having a greater impact.

“Just taking some of the pressure off the main scorers,” Anderson said about his role.

Anderson said he hit the gym hard during the shutdown. When he arrived in Stillwater last summer, he took inspiration from former teammate Cameron McGriff.

Anderson made it routine to arrive at 7 a.m. for workouts inside Gallagher-Iba Arena with graduate assistant Dallas Cameron. After workouts, Anderson shot more with assistant Cannen Cunningham.

“Last year, I thought I had worked hard,” Anderson said. “With Cam, he worked out in the mornings, he worked out in the evenings and he’ll even come back at night. That inspired me to push myself even harder so I can become a good player like him or have a good work ethic like him.”

And now, Anderson feels like his old self.

He’s shooting 42.3% from 3-point range and 50.6% overall. He’s had career highs in points (17) and assists (5) since the calendar turned to 2021.

It’s also noticeable when he gets in isolation. He could always wreak havoc with his speed and shot-making ability in high school.

Now, he’s doing it at a high level.

“I’m not sure if he’s not as good as anybody on our team in terms of just being able to go get a bucket,” Boynton said. “I think he’s gotten more comfortable being able to do that but in the framework of who we are now.”

Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›