WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Tyrek Coger was about to make his way to Oxford, but at the last moment, the SEC referenced a rule that states junior college players must spend at least three semesters at one institution before transferring to the conference.
After investing and believing he was heading to Ole Miss for over a year, it was time to scramble for a new school.
"It was really devastating. It was like a nightmare," Coger said. "I just prayed and asked for everything to go back to normal."
Coger spent the past season as a post player for Cape Fear, averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds a game. Coger and his coach, Ryan Mantlo, did not think the rule would be an issue, after discussions with Ole Miss compliance.
"It's a different rule that we definitely don't see very often," Mantlo explained. "When we initially heard of it, we didn't think anything about it, because their compliance said, 'hey, it's going to be OK', and then it wasn't - and we were then in scramble mode for about 24 hours."
The last second hiccup to the peace of mind he had built was that much more difficult to accept after the winding path he had taken to get to this point.
Recruited heavily out of Word of God Academy in Raleigh, Coger ended up at Eastern Florida State College, averaging just four points a game. He then transferred to Cape Fear, the move coinciding with the loss of his grandfather and aunt. Coger's grades slipped, and instead of beginning a sophomore season at a power five school, the 6'9" center was redshirting.
"I had to grow up the redshirt year, and get my body right, and get my mind back on," Coger said. "That was a big part of me maturing and using that as flame to the fire to be a better player."
That improvement was evident this past season, a year in which Coger averaged 12 points and 8 rebounds a game. When the Ole Miss offer was negated, multiple schools quickly came calling, and Coger decided on Oklahoma State.
"The program is big. We're looking at coming in there and making noise," Coger said. "Coach Underwood is a great coach."
Mantlo, even in just the short time he has known Coger, has seen drastic improvements, and feels he will have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot in Stillwater.
"It's been incredible. He came in and he's lost about 20 pounds," Mantlo said. "And something cool that Coach Underwood talked about was about Coger coming in and being a leader in the locker room. That says something, going to a power five school and expecting big things right away - it shows how much he's truly grown, and we're very proud of him."