Isaac Likekele has endured a typical freshman season at Oklahoma State.
The Mansfield Timberview product went through ups and downs like most players making the transition from high school to college.
He scored 23 points at West Virginia on Jan. 12, and then scored a combined 18 points the next five games. He had 17 points at TCU in his return to Tarrant County, and followed that with 14 points at Kansas’ historic Allen Fieldhouse. But then he scored four points in the home game against KU.
“Part of it is just the natural progression of a really talented freshman,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “Part of the issue with college basketball right now is everybody expects these kids to come in and be superstars.
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“Most of them have a lot of ups and downs. It takes a while to figure out and be consistent. That’s what Isaac is now. He had some really good moments, and he’s got some learning and growing to do. That’s part of the process, but he’s going to be a really good player.”
Likekele has started all 31 games for the Cowboys and, as stated, flashed his potential.
He scored 16 points against Houston, one of the top teams in the country this season. He is coming off games in which he matched his season-high with 23 points in a win at Baylor and set a career-high with nine assists against West Virginia in the season finale.
Likekele would like to carry that momentum into tonight’s game against TCU in the Big 12 tournament opener, the only conference opponent he scored double-digit points in each game. But Likekele insists there is no added incentive facing a TCU team that is close to his home and didn’t recruit him.
“I didn’t get recruited by any Texas schools besides Texas Tech,” Likekele said. “I never really cared about that stuff. If they were recruiting me, they did. If they weren’t, they weren’t.”
Likekele mentioned UT-Arlington had interest in him when current TCU assistant Scott Cross was still head coach at UTA.
“Coach Cross, that’s my guy right there,” Likekele said. “I like Coach Cross.”
Looking forward, instead of back, Boynton and Likekele made it clear the top priority will be fixing his jump shot this offseason. Likekele finished the regular season making just 26.1 percent of his 3-point attempts, and shooting 66.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Boynton expects to fully breakdown Likekele’s jump shot and start from scratch.
“There’s enough to fix that you kind of start from scratch and go with the basics in form shooting, maybe try to get his release point a little bit higher,” Boynton said. “There’s a lot of things to work with, but that’s not something you try to fix during the year and obviously we knew that coming in.
“He wasn’t going to be a knockdown 3-point shooter. Obviously his strength is getting to the basket and making plays for other guys.”
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Likekele has the size to be a strong finisher at the rim and has proven capable of that at this level. It’s just a matter of doing so consistently.
And it’ll help once he improves his jump shot to keep defenses more honest when defending him.
Likekele called improving his jumpshot “crucial” for his development.
“If I come back just shooting the jump shot a lot better, it’ll take my game to another level,” Likekele said. “It’s good that the coaches and staff is looking forward for me and trying to help me become a better player.”
Asked how much better Likekele will be with an improved jumper, Boynton said: “Man, he becomes a real dynamic player. His size and strength makes it really hard to keep him out of the lane where he’s most effective.
“And he’s obviously going to become a better free throw shooter if he gets his jump shot a little bit more consistent as well.”