STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) — There’s no blueprint when it comes to life, but when you’re a five-star high school basketball recruit it feels like that blueprint does exist. Earn elite recruit status, choose a top college to play for, spend one season there, then go play in the NBA.
“In high school I was hearing ‘oh you’re going to go to college for one year’ and everything,” said Oklahoma State junior forward Moussa Cisse.
However it’s not the reality for every highly-recruited high schooler, a tough pill to swallow for any 18-year-old when they can’t immediately meet those lofty expectations.
“Part of it is because the expectations are out of whack on the initial part of their careers that even success in a normal sense, like it is for most kids, doesn’t feel like it’s successful for them,” said Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton.
“Basketball was in my life since I can remember,” said Oklahoma State junior guard Bryce Thompson. “I was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, and then my freshman year, I wasn’t one and done. So that’s a lot of pressure of being a McDonald’s All-American. They kind of expect you to be one and done and all this, so you know it was rough.”
Bryce Thompson and Moussa Cisse were both five-star recruits in the high school class of 2020. Thompson, a Tulsa native, decided to attend Kansas, while Cisse chose to go to Memphis. Neither player expecting to play passed their freshman season, let alone play at a different university, but life had different plans for them.
“When I got to college things started getting harder, because I’m playing against older people. People were physical… so I had to re-learn basketball,” said Cisse. “I realized myself like I can’t go right now. These guys they’re much older, they’re physical, they know the game. I had a lot to learn, so I decided to come back to college.”
Following their freshman seasons, both Cisse and Thompson decided on returning to college basketball, but they also decided they needed a new perspective and a change of scenery.
“After the season I met with my parents and just kind of game planned it out, if I should stay, if I should leave. Ultimately I decided to leave,” explained Thompson.
Both players found a new perspective and new home at OSU.
“I say you just shouldn’t try to put that pressure on yourself, because it’s just not healthy. I think I say the best is just to go out there and just work as hard as you can and do all you can,” said Thompson.
“Those five stars, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing, but it doesn’t really matter, it’s the work. The name doesn’t matter anymore, the name as a high school five star all the rankings, it’s high school. In college you just have to work and be mindful and stay focused,” added Cisse.
Cisse and Thompson say they were able to learn and grow from each other’s similar experiences. Using this to try and turn disappointment into triumph.
“It was helpful, like Bryce is a great player, he works hard, I really look up to him. I look up to a lot of my teammates,” said Cisse. “I was like ‘oh I’m not the only one that thinks the right way.’ So it helped me a lot to just focus on the game, not focus on all the other stuff that’s going on.”
“We’re in the same boat, you know, both highly recruited coming out of high school and we’re both still here playing in college and we’re enjoying it and we’re impacting the game. You know, we still have the same goal and we just come in and we work hard and we try to do the best to help our team win,” continued Thompson.
Now, finding their way, these former high school stars are ready to lead the Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament. Letting their NBA dreams take care of themselves.
“I realized I don’t have to rush, I’m still young, I’m getting better, and the NBA is never going to move, the NBA is going to stay there. So I’d rather go over there ready, than try to go ever there and get ready,” said Cisse.
“If you’re supposed to be in the NBA, you know, you’ll get there no matter if it’s one year, two years, four years, no matter what. If you keep working and everything aligns, you’ll get there,” added Thompson.
Between 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rivals, 33 different players in the Class of 2020 earned a five-star ranking. Of those 33 players, 21 have been drafted (Terrence Clarke was an honorary draft pick in 2021), four declared for the draft but went undrafted, and eight are still playing college basketball.