CORVALLIS — The roster will look significantly different for a second straight season for the Oregon State men’s basketball team.
Nine players on the Beavers’ roster to open the 2017-18 season are gone. That includes sophomore point guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who played only six games before deciding to transfer, and senior center Cheikh N’diaye, who did not play at all after distancing himself from the program.
Last year’s team had six new players. This year, there are five and will likely be a few more, including walk-ons. Two scholarships remain available, and one could be saved for the 2019 recruiting class.
Coach Wayne Tinkle said he understands the significant challenge that roster turnover brings, but it is also one Tinkle says his team will take head-on.
“To me it’s exciting because you’re going to get that youthful enthusiasm, like that 2015 class had that first year,” he said of the group of his son Tres, along with Derrick Bruce, Drew Eubanks, Gligorije Rakocevic and Stevie Thompson.
Bruce left the program after his freshman year and is now at Texas Southern. Eubanks decided to forgo his final year of eligibility for NBA aspirations. The 6-foot-10 Eubanks averaged 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds and exited as one of the school’s all-time leaders in field-goal percentage and blocks.
“There’s going to be some growing pains, we know that,” Wayne Tinkle added. “But I tell you, we’re going to have more depth, more talent, guys playing for the right reasons, playing for each other, have that hunger and that chip again. So it’s going to be exciting.”
The Beavers, 16-16 overall and 7-11 in Pac-12 this past season, were not anticipating as many postseason departure announcements as there have been — four, not including the graduation of Seth Berger and Ronnie Stacy. But Tinkle says he and his staff were prepared.
Guards Kendal Manuel and Xavier Smith and forward Ben Kone have moved on to seek new opportunities.
“Kendal came in and said, ‘Coach, I know I’ve only got two more years of competitive basketball and want to go somewhere where I can just have a big role in that amount of time,’” Tinkle said. “Same on down the line, guys just looking for places where they can go and maybe have the success they’re hoping to have academically and athletically.
“That gives us a chance to go find some pieces that maybe add to what we already have.”
Big men Kylor Kelley, Warren Washington and Jack Wilson signed in November. Guards Jordan Campbell (6 feet 3, 195 pounds) and Antoine Vernon (6-0, 175), both a year out of high school, signed earlier this month.
Vernon is a point guard, while Campbell can play both guard spots.
“We like Jordan, physically his strong build and athletic (body), he’ll be able to jump in defensively and even on the offensive end,” Tinkle said. “Then Antoine has played in very competitive leagues, so he plays with a chip, a real tough kid. So we feel like he’s going to help us right away. Excited about those two.”
The addition of the guards could allow senior-to-be Stephen Thompson Jr. a chance to play more off the ball after sharing point guard duties when McLaughlin left.
Alfred Hollins, Zach Reichle and Ethan Thompson, who all made impacts as freshmen this past season, will show how much progress they have made from their first to second years in the program. Tinkle says the amount of progress varies from one athlete to the next.
“I think just the level of comfort, as far as understanding the expectations, the standards, what it takes, it should be a good jump between those first couple years,” he said.
With forwards Eubanks, Kone and Berger (exhausted eligibility) gone, the Beavers have an immediate need for help around the basket alongside the 6-11 Rakocevic.
The hope is that all three newcomers signed in November will be able to contribute right away, but Tinkle and his staff will have a better idea once they arrive this summer and begin to test their skill level and physicality against college players.
Kelley (7-0, 215) has played one year at a small college (Northwest Christian) and another at a junior college (Lane). Washington (6-11, 210) and Wilson (7-0, 230) are graduating this spring.
Wilson had back problems that kept him out of his senior season, but he played some during the AAU spring circuit. He is working with trainers at home in Half Moon Bay, California, and will join OSU’s other first-year players when they arrive in Corvallis next month.
“I like the fact that we’ve got some real size and depth, but we also have the ability, like we have in the past, to go small if we feel like that gives us the best shot,” Tinkle said.
The coach says it has been a good spring for the returners, particularly Rakocevic and Tres Tinkle, the coach’s son.
An all-Pac-12 selection last season, Tres Tinkle is getting bigger and stronger after dealing with past foot and wrist injuries that kept him off the court for extended periods.
Now healthy, he is starting to show some of the athleticism he displayed in high school, his dad says.
Coach Tinkle says he likes the level of competitiveness, the hunger shown and the time and effort being put in by his returners.
“It’s neat to see that those guys are champing at the bit to get that new group here, improve themselves,” he said, “but then get that group here over the summer and start working on improving our team.”