Even with point guards Fred Gulley and Reger Dowell quitting the team in December, the loss of Olukemi is the biggest blow yet to the struggling Cowboys.
Olukemi had been inconsistent in the Cowboys' 7-6 start to the season but there is no questioning his importance to this team. He was averaging 9.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and was one of the team's most experienced leaders.
"A guy of JP's capabilities, it would hurt any team," Ford said in his weekly teleconference. "Opportunities remain. We'll see what guys make of it. Everybody else is going to have to step up. "It's part of the game. No use sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. You stay positive, and we expect everybody else to pick up the slack."
The Cowboys have lost three players in the past three weeks and what was once a strength on this team, its depth, is now a serious concern heading into conference play. Redshirt Brian Williams is likely to be the beneficiary of the open minutes at the position and played well in Olukemi's absence, scoring a career-high 14 points against the Hokies.
With the loss of Olukemi, the Pokes are now down eight scholarship players, including Marek Soucek who has seen limited action this season but is now likely to be forced into more playing time.
The Cowboys open Big 12 play against Texas Tech (7-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Stillwater.