DALLAS, Texas -- On a day where three top-50 national players announced their college futures, LeBryan Nash chose to go with his heart and, to an extent, against the grain.
Nash, the highly touted, five-star recruit out of Lincoln High School in Dallas, announced on national television Thursday afternoon that he would take his talents to Oklahoma State and coach Travis Ford.
Nash chose Oklahoma State over Baylor and Kansas. All verbal commitments are nonbinding. The first day a Class of 2011 basketball recruit can sign a national letter of intent is Nov. 10.
Following the announcement, Nash showed his character by flashing a huge smile and putting on an orange novelty cowboy hat.
"I thought I just fit in Oklahoma State's system the most," said Nash, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound small forward. "I will have the ball in my hands most of the time. All of the coaches recruiting me were good to me, but I just felt it was the best place for me."
The decision came minutes after five-star national recruits, Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello, both out of Westchester Country Day in North Carolina, chose to attend Baylor. Some thought Nash would have completed Baylor's trifecta for the day, but he chose the school that he said has been recruiting him since the seventh grade.
"It was such a hard decision. They all showed me so much love," Nash said. "But Oklahoma State has been there the longest. They've been looking at me back when Eddie Sutton was around, and whoever was head coach after that, they made sure they stayed in touch with me."
Miller and Bello are No. 5 and No. 43, respectively, in the latest Rivals150 national rankings for the Class of 2011. Nash, ranked No. 4 nationally and No. 1 in the state according to TexasHoops.com, has an idea of putting the program on his back and building it.
"I wanted to be someplace where I could be a leader and not a follower," he said.
In leading, Nash will follow the footsteps of his older half-brother. Byron Eaton was a McDonald's All-American who played for the Cowboys from 2005-09.
"He told me that Travis Ford was the coach for me," Nash said. "That's my big brother, so I'm going to listen to him."
Nash averaged 17.8 points and 10.2 points as a junior for Lincoln last season. He wowed the audience in his very first varsity game as a freshman, as he attempted to dunk on 6-foot-11 J'mison Morgan, then a senior at Dallas South Oak Cliff High School and now a transfer at Baylor. Nash has been a warrior since.
As he grew up, his game matured. He developed a mid-range jumper, then developed a long-range jumper. From there, he became a complete athlete and a team leader. When he wasn't leading Lincoln during the regular season, he was a go-to guy for a loaded Dallas Mustangs AAU team. Nash on Thursday became the eighth Mustang to commit to a school and the seventh to commit to a Division I program.
"They're getting a winner," Lincoln coach Leonard Bishop said. "He's a very emotional player who loves to win and will do what it takes to win. He was good as a freshman, but he's so much better now because he's matured not just on the court but also mentally."
Dallas Mustangs director/coach Tony Johnson added: "He's going to give them a big guard, a tough forward, a great passer ... he can do it all. He's going to make his teammates better, and he has a good attitude. They're going to allow him to play basketball over there."
Both Bishop and Johnson said the sky's the limit for Nash, assuming he keeps his motor and his desire to excel high. He has the potential to be a pro player, but his focus solely is on improving the Cowboys, a team that was 22-11 but lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.
Nash said that he plans on attending the school's annual Homecoming & Hoops this weekend. He's most excited about finishing his recruiting process and preparing for his senior year of high school.
"I'm blessed. It's every kid's dream to play college basketball," Nash said. "I want to play in the pros, too, and I think [Ford's] system fits me the best. It's more open and more pick-and-roll, like the NBA."