STILLWATER – Saturday will be the last time Bryce Williams plays a competitive basketball game on Eddie Sutton Court, and it could also be the last time for Isaac Likekele.
Oklahoma State hosts Texas Tech on senior day at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The pair of Likekele and Williams combined for 1,412 points, 729 rebounds, 568 assists and 216 steals as Cowboys. Likekele could return for a super senior season because of COVID, a decision he said he has yet to make. After transferring from Ole Miss, Williams is already a Super Senior.
Here are some stories of the two as they wind down their college careers.
The meaning of Williams’ nickname
Almost everyone on the OSU basketball team has a nickname.
Most are fairly simple to understand. Isaac Likekele is “Ice”, Kalib Boone is “KB”, Bryce Thompson is “BT” and Tyreek Smith is “Reek”. But Bryce ‘1K’ Williams is quite unique.
It’s gotten to the point where the media is even referring to Williams as 1K. It’s easier that way because there are two Bryces in the squad (Bryce Thompson) and two players with the last name Williams (Donovan Williams).
“He just came out of the blue, for real,” Williams said. “It’s really like a term in Florida. You know, like in the norm like in our emojis, we have ‘keep it 100’ or ‘keep it 100?’ I keep it at 1,000 while everyone else keeps it at 100.”
From Tampa, Fla., Williams said the nickname started while he was at Ole Miss. When someone said, “Hey, we have a 2 a.m. practice.” He answered “1K”.
Last man standing
In one of the Cowboys’ first 2018-19 summer practices before they traveled to Europe for a scrimmaging group, Mike Boynton put his class of five freshmen on the floor against his returns.
The freshmen (Likekele, Yor Anei, Maurice Calloo, Duncan Demuth and Kentrevious Jones) had a sizable lead with around three minutes to play. The Ghosts (Lindy Waters, Cameron McGriff, Thomas Dziagwa, Curtis Jones and Michael Weathers) returned almost instantly.
The freshmen struggled to get the ball past center court. The ghosts were talking loudly and having fun. Freshmen looked like they were taking an exam on the differences between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, that is, apart from Likekele. Likekele was trying to round up her dazed classmates during down time, but all was not to do so. It was a humbling experience for the new group, designed to show them that they have to work to improve.
Of this group of freshmen, only Likekele remains. Calloo and Jones were fired from the program later that season. Demuth transferred to Vermont after the season, and Anei transferred the following season. Their paths branched out, but Likekele said he still speaks with all of these guys.
“Everyone is fine, man,” Likekele said. “Mo is over there at [Oregon State]. Kent, I talk to him once in a while just to make sure he’s okay. Chicco [transfer Mike Cunningham], he skipped a little while, and now he’s moving on to his adult life. Duncan, I haven’t talked to Duncan in forever, that’s who I haven’t talked to in forever. But last time I checked, he was in Vermont doing good. I talk to Yor every day. It’s my right arm. He’s at DePaul’s doing good.
Likekele’s friendship with Anei was evident. For one thing, they were the only two of that group to succeed in Stillwater after the first year. Anei entered the transfer portal shortly after the initial announcement that the Cowboys would be banned from the playoffs.
Anei averaged 7.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in two seasons with the Cowboys. He spent one season at SMU, where he averaged 6.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. He played 28 games with DePaul this season, averaging 4.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
Despite their close friendship, Likekele said it wasn’t too hard for him when Anei left because he wanted Anei to do what he thought was best for him.
“Whenever you generally care about someone, you always want them to do what they think is best for them,” Likekele said. “So every time he told me, I didn’t trip over it. I didn’t think it was the best decision for him, but who am I to tell you that? You just met me two years ago, so who am I to tell you what to do with your life? But I was just happy for him. Whatever opportunity he felt, I supported him and just wanted him to achieve everything he felt to bring him closer to his dreams.
Despite the difficulties of the season, Williams is still happy to have chosen to return
Williams doesn’t like school. He was clear.
It was a major hurdle for him to decide if he wanted to return for a super senior season with a COVID eligibility waiver. On June 14, Williams announced he would return for the 2021-22 season. After a summer of expanding its game, the NCAA announced days before the start of the season that the Cowboys would not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament.
Despite that and the Cowboys’ struggles on the field this season, Williams said he doesn’t regret his decision to stay an extra year at Stillwater.
“It wasn’t really the sport that brought me back, it was really the group of guys,” Williams said. “Even though we lose and maybe have a bad season right now, or not the season we wanted, there’s still a lot of good that has come out of this season – a lot of friendships, a lot of connections, many memories that I will cherish.
Likekele’s future basketball team
Since Isaac Likekele entered the OSU campus in the summer of 2018, he has been a leader.
When Likekele joined the program, upperclassmen Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters were more of a “lead by example” type, but from those early summer practices, you could tell that the lyrics of Likekele had a way of dominating the room.
Whenever his playing days are over, Likekele said he wants to coach. He said he talked about it with Boynton and that Boynton shared some of his knowledge with him.
But what would a team coached by Isaac Likekele look like?
“We lead a man [defense]said Likekele. “I need guys who can get through. I like skilled passers, I like very skilled passers. I feel like passing is key and in a basketball game. It makes things easier – you need skilled passers. Then I just need guys who can shoot the  and put it down. That’s all I need. … I’m going to go back to the traditional way of playing, look. I’m going to have two big ones. Look, I’m telling you, I’m going to have two big ones. Obviously my [power forward] going to be able to pull it off, though, but he’s also going to be a big man.
“Keylan [Boone] would be the star player on my team because he just plays insane, that’s the type of style I need.