By Jesse Sowa

Corvallis Gazette-Times

First up

Pacific (Ore.) at Oregon St.

When: 7 p.m. Friday Online:

CORVALLIS — The offseason between Ethan Thompson’s junior and senior years of high school was filled with basketball-related experiences that he and others say helped his game take a big jump forward.

There was the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, in which he competed against some of the country’s best prep players; the highly regarded Peach Jam tournament, in which he played for his AAU team, California Supreme; elite-level camps and academies; and competing for Puerto Rico’s national team in the FIBA Americas U18 tournament in South America.

“He was on the move all spring and summer playing against top-level competition,” said Stephen Thompson, Ethan’s father and an Oregon State assistant coach. “Now, when he got to his senior season, he had already seen everything that could be thrown at him at that level.”

Ethan Thompson, now an Oregon State freshman, used those experiences to lead Bishop Montgomery High in Los Angeles to a state championship while being named California’s state player of the year by numerous organizations and publications.

Now he will soon see what the next level has in store.

A versatile 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard, Thompson has quickly become a leader for the Beavers without even playing a game.

He developed his on-court voice as an underclassman at Bishop Montgomery while playing with a veteran team. It did not take him long to find a similar role with the Beavers.

“He’s vocalized his opinions when we’re on the court,” said Beavers guard Tanner Sanders. “If guys aren’t doing things the right way he’s not afraid to get into a guy— ‘You need to pick it up’ — which is awesome to see from a true freshman.”

Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle began to see that leadership take form during the team’s practices leading up to its two-week tour of Spain in August, which included four games.

“He’s not afraid, in a positive way, to be constructive with his criticism if guys aren’t going hard enough or taking care of the ball, whatever the case may be,” Tinkle said. “We need him to continue to grow in that role, be more comfortable with it as he spends more time with us.”

Fans will get their first look at Thompson and the newest edition of Oregon State men’s basketball when the Beavers open their season Friday night with a home exhibition against NCAA Division III Pacific. OSU begins the regular season Nov. 10 hosting Southern Utah.

In his time with the Puerto Rican national team, Thompson dealt with a more physical style of play while taking on international players soon to be professionals in their home countries.

He is adjusting to more contact as his college career begins as well.

Thompson has worked with OSU strength and conditioning coach Jeff Macy to put on pounds — about 10 to his current weight — through weight room workouts and at meal time.

“When he came in, he was already playing at a very high level against high-level competition, playing against bigger, stronger guys,” said OSU junior guard Stevie Thompson, Ethan’s older brother by two years. “I think he’s used to it for the most part and we’ll see once it gets to playing his first game how well he’s adjusted.”

Speed joins physicality as aspects that stand out to Ethan Thompson as he makes his move from high school to college.

“I’ve noticed I’m rushing a lot of shots even when I’m wide-open,” he said. “It’s just a mental game, that the game’s faster. In reality, it is a little faster, but people overexaggerate it. I just need to play my game.”

Thompson is described by his father as a player who is willing to listen and learn, and who at times makes corrections on his own before getting instruction. His transition has included figuring out how to continue doing things on the court that were strengths as a high school player.

Through observation, he learned from his new team’s older players during the Spain trip.

“They’re always calm no matter what the situation, on the sidelines and playing against talented teams out there when their crowds are going crazy,” Thompson said.

Through repetition and time with his new teammates, his confidence and comfort in a new system grow each day.

He sees his role as bringing energy, scoring, getting others involved and doing whatever the team needs to win games.

Tinkle knows what levels his budding star has played at and whom he has played against, and the Beavers will not hesitate to see early on how ready Thompson is in making his next transition.

“But we also know we’ve got to be patient with him as a true freshman,” Tinkle said. “We know he’s going to be paying dividends for us fairly quickly.”