Ford opens up about point guard Kirby Gardner

From the very beginning, the recruitment of Cezar Guerrero was never a sure thing. When Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford signed Guerrero in April of 2011, he understood why his newest point guard was apprehensive about leaving his home state of California.

Guerrero's family members might not have understood why Cezar would travel hundreds of miles away to play basketball, especially when mom was sick.

"Even then, I knew Guerrero's mom situation," Ford said. "There was pressure from the beginning from people back at home. This kid did not want to leave."

On Aug. 20, Guerrero's need to be with family reached its height. He left the program.Guerrero, who averaged 5.6 points and 1.5 assists last season, transferred from OSU to Fresno State this past week.

"You have to understand his background, there were a lot of people saying, ‘You have to come back home, your mom is sick,'" Ford said. "And his mom didn't understand the difference between Oklahoma State and Langston. They couldn't get out here and see him play. There was a lot of pressure on him, and it probably was best."

Exit Guerrero. Enter Kirby Gardner.

Gardner, a point guard who played at San Bernardino Valley Community College last year, was a late pick up for the Cowboys that will help fill the void left by Guerrero. Gardner averaged 17.2 points and 4.4 assists at SBVC, earning MVP honors in the Foothill Conference.

"Kirby Gardner is a true point guard," Ford said. "That's really the only true point guard we have on our team right now."

Even before the departure of Guerrero, Ford said he was looking to bring some stability and depth to the point guard position. After watching some tape, he invited Garnder, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, on an official visit to OSU. Ford had the opportunity to work him out inside Gallagher-Iba Arena because of a NCAA rule change.

It was the first time he had ever put a visiting recruit through drills.

"I really liked what I saw," Ford said. "He brings an experienced point that can play some two. He's built very strong."

Ford said freshman Marcus Smart, after an impressive performance on the Cowboys' trip to Spain this summer, has secured the starting point guard role, but that doesn't mean Gardner won't fit into the lineup this season.

"For junior college players, it's always an adjustment to this level, always," Ford said. "Well, he's not going to have to be ‘the guy.' He'll play a role early and establish himself."

In June, Gardner spoke with Go Pokes about contributing this upcoming season.

"They tell me that I fit the system well, and I'm their missing piece," Gardner said. "I'll do whatever it takes to win, and I guess they saw that about me."

The Cowboys start their home schedule with a preseason game against Ottawa (Kan.) on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.

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