Oklahoma St. basketball: What does Avery Anderson’s return mean?

Oklahoma State guard Avery Anderson III announced that he will withdraw his name from consideration for the 2021 NBA Draft and return for his junior season in Stillwater. What does the news mean for OSU basketball for this fall?

Anderson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Justin, Tex., finished last season averaging 12.2 points, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 rebounds per game. He scored more than 20 points in his last six games of the season and often displayed an impressive ability to get to the rim and beat his defenders off the dribble.

Avery Anderson’s return for 2021-22 gives Oklahoma St. basketball a go-to player in clutch situations and an emerging, shot-creating leader on offense.

Anderson blossomed as the 2020-21 season progressed, continuing the improvements that he made from a freshman season in which he averaged only 4.2 points per game. He was named to the All-Big 12 Tournament team last March after helping the Cowboys beat eventual national champion Baylor with 20 points.

Just before the conference tourney, he had helped the Cowboys beat West Virginia with 31 points off 11-for-14 shooting in the regular-season finale. It was a career-high performance for Anderson, and OSU fans can only hope that his return results in continued improvement and an emerging leadership role next season.

The return of Anderson is key for an OSU hoops squad that is intent on building upon last year’s success under head coach Mike Boynton. The Cowboys grabbed their share of national headlines during 2020-21 behind this summer’s presumptive No. 1 NBA Draft pick and All-American Cade Cunningham, although the season ended on a disappointing note with an upset loss to No. 12 seed Oregon State in the second round. Now, OSU will have an older roster with NCAA Tournament experience this fall.

The Pokes’ roster, like almost everyone’s roster these days, has seen its share of players coming and going. In addition to Cunningham surprising no one and declaring for the NBA Draft, reserve guard Ferron Flavors transferred to Robert Morris. Last month, former Syracuse forward Woody Newton traded orange jerseys to come to Stillwater, and there are two more available scholarships that could go to a potential incoming transfer like All-SEC guard Sahvir Wheeler of Georgia.

Regardless, Anderson’s return (with senior point guard Isaac Likelele) gives Boynton and OSU important stability and leadership in the backcourt that could be unrivaled in the Big 12, one of the nation’s toughest conferences.

With Anderson back in Stillwater next season, Boynton and the Cowboys also have a better chance to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since 2014 and 2015 under then-head coach Travis Ford.