By anyone's measure, 'Big Country' a big deal

March 27, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Big Country fishes at Kerr Lake. That's K-E-R-R, and he doesn't care that the secret is out, now that he's off to the Final Four.

"Who's going to go to Gans?" Bryant "Big Country" Reeves asked yesterday, rather eloquently.

Gans, Okla., is Country's hometown -- pop. 250, hard by the Arkansas border. The 7-footer goes to Kerr Lake when he's hungry for catfish. Needless to say, he's the tallest fisherman around.

"Oh, yeah, definitely so," Country said. "The best fisherman, too."

Hee haw, Oklahoma State is in the Final Four.

Take it away, CBS:

OSU vs. UCLA.

Hicks vs. Hollywood.

All Big Country did yesterday was score 24 points, grab 10 rebounds and draw three charging fouls in Oklahoma State's 68-54 victory over Massachusetts at the Meadowlands Arena.

It was something, seeing Country hurl his 292-pound body in front of Massachusetts point guard Derek Kellogg late in the second half, then crumble to the floor as he was fouled.

"I just saw a big white thing coming at me," Kellogg said. "Next thing I know I was bopped on the jaw and laying on the ground. I didn't get to see what happened."

Aw, it was just Country, taking one for the team, just like coach Eddie Sutton taught him. He was so flabby coming out of high school, Sutton planned to redshirt him. Now, the senior center projects as a potential NBA lottery pick.

"He's definitely one of the best I've played against," said Massachusetts senior forward Lou Roe, who faced Maryland's Joe Smith, Kansas' Greg Ostertag and Arkansas' Corliss Williamson this season. "He's better than I thought he was."

The NBA?

Country isn't counting his catfish just yet.

"What happens to me next year will happen to me no matter what happens," he said, again rather eloquently.

Road trip to Gans. Road trip to Broken Bow. Road trip to all the other Oklahoma State hometowns that couldn't fit inside the Kingdome in Seattle.

It's the sequel to "Hoosiers."

"Okies."

No doubt, the Cowboys will be the media darlings of the Final Four. Their other star, Randy Rutherford, is the one from Broken Bow. He took offense yesterday when a reporter asked what it was like coming from a town of 3,000.

"Six thousand!" he shot back. "You've already got your facts wrong."

Well, ex-cuuuuse me.

Now is no time for the Cowboys to turn sensitive, but Country looked surprised when asked if his teammates ever teased him about the size of his hometown.

"There's really nothing ever said about it," he said.

Nothing?

"We do a lot of joking about it," said forward Scott Pierce, who is from Euless, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. "But we can't do too much joking, because Randy and Country are by far our best players."

Reserve forward Jason Skaer, another city slicker, hails from the Houston suburb of Deer Park, Texas.

"Stillwater was a big adjustment for me," he said, referring to the home of OSU. "I think there are more people in my neighborhood than there are in Stillwater."

Of course, to Country, Stillwater is a metropolis.

As legend has it, he was still a senior at Gans High when former OSU assistant Bill Self told him he needed to play in the city to improve his game.

"I've been playing in the city," Country replied.

"Oklahoma City?" said Self. "Or Tulsa?"

"Sallisaw," Country replied.

That's Sallisaw, pop. 7,122.

"Sometimes, we tease them when we go to big, fancy hotels -- they'll be in awe," Skaer said. "Yesterday, when we went into New York City, they were like, 'Look at all the people.' I was like, 'It looks like home.' "

Country said he left the bus to admire the Statue of Liberty, and that was about it. This was a business trip. And now OSU is in the Final Four for the first time since 1951, back when the NIT was the big college tournament, not the NCAA.

To tell you all about it, here's that noted former OSU football and baseball star, that pull-no-punches talk-show host for WWLS in Oklahoma City, former Oriole Jim Traber.

"When is anyone going to give them credit?" Traber shouted from press row, spitting tobacco juice into a paper cup, just like in his playing days.

"Big Country went up against [Antonio] McDyess, [Tim] Duncan and [Marcus] Camby. And he dominated Camby. Dominated."

The Whammer was so pumped up, he asked two questions -- two! -- at the postgame news conference. He later was seen high-fiving Oklahoma State officials in the bowels of the arena.

The Whammer and Big Country, off to the Final Four.

Road trip to Gans.

Road trip to Seattle.

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