By Jesse Sowa

Corvallis Gazette-Times

CORVALLIS — Wayne Tinkle’s No. 1 goal for his team’s upcoming trip to Spain is to return with everyone healthy.

The Oregon State men’s basketball team will play five games against second- and third-division Spanish professional teams on its 14-day journey.

Tinkle, entering his fourth season as coach of the Beavers, calls the timing of the trip “perfect.”

The roster includes six new players, including two walk-ons, plus 10 returners hungry to bounce back from a disappointing 5-27 season.

“The guys are working hard, and some of the guys in their third year have really developed some leadership qualities,” Tinkle said this week. “We get the 10 practices (before the trip), which we’re taking full advantage of. The game experience over there is going to be great and we think it will give us a leg up heading into this season.”

Tinkle, who played professionally in Spain, says the two hours a week coaches are allowed with their players in the summer is not enough. Valuable practice time in the fall is spent teaching drills.

The extra practices this summer have allowed the Beavers to move forward more quickly in preparation for the first game in early November.

The Beavers, playing five games in nine days in Spain, open their schedule with Mataro Parc Boel on Thursday and close with CB Benahavis Costa del Sol on Aug. 25.

In their on-campus practices, the Beavers have focused more on defense than offense in anticipation of playing different defenses in Spain.

Tinkle says the Beavers’ depth is the best it has been since he came to Corvallis in 2014. Freshmen Ethan Thompson, Zach Reichle and Ethan Hollins and grad transfer Seth Berger are competing for time in the rotation.

“We’ve got a couple guys at each position, and our top seven guys aren’t worn out by taking every rep,” the coach said. “We have substitutes to come in and out.”

While coaching at Montana, Tinkle took a team to Calgary, Alberta, for a four-game trip.

The Grizzlies won a championship there, Tinkle’s first as a head coach, and the players’ roles and the team’s bench were developed.

“We’re hoping this trip for us does similar things, as far as getting that out of the way now,” Tinkle said. “It will allow us much more time on the fine details when we start in October.”

Tinkle said he has seen progress across the board in practice.

Juniors Drew Eubanks and Steve Thompson Jr. tested the NBA waters this past spring before withdrawing from draft consideration. Eubanks is much more open to coaching and willing to learn, Tinkle said, while Thompson has become a better distributor of the ball and is not just looking to score.

Ethan Thompson, Steve’s younger brother, is credited with being one of the team’s most competitive players.

Junior Tres Tinkle, the coach’s son, is back on the court after missing all but six games last season with a broken wrist and has continued his on-court leadership.

Berger brings toughness, leadership and experience. Junior Gligorije Rakocevic has become a better leaper, and sophomore Ben Kone continues his return back to 100 percent after a serious knee injury in early 2016.

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