CORVALLIS — A few days before Oregon State kicks off practices for the 2019-20 men’s basketball season, it is mentioned to Tres Tinkle that it seemed unlikely he was coming back this season.
Tinkle has already invested four years in the Beavers program, he is 23 years old and if not the NBA, there is money to be made overseas. A fifth year of college?
“To be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to come back, either,” Tinkle said.
But after a month of grinding through NBA workouts and getting feedback from an array of coaches, general managers and scouts, Tinkle decided a fifth year at Oregon State was critical to his basketball future.
Looking lean and wearing a trimmed beard, Tinkle begins practices with the Beavers on Tuesday for the 2019-20 season. There are many things on Tinkle’s plate this season, all important.
Tinkle has NBA dreams. At 6 feet 7, he knows he is considered by some NBAers as between positions. Tinkle plans to use this season to make the improvements necessary to show he belongs on an NBA roster.
He has NCAA dreams. The Beavers played in the NCAA Tournament during Tinkle’s OSU tenure, but he had to watch that 2016 game from the sideline due to a foot injury.
Tinkle has legacy dreams. It is a much lower priority than the first two, but with a strong senior year he can finish among the greatest players in OSU history statistically. It is possible for Tinkle to become Oregon State’s all-time leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder. He is set to end his career among the top five in most Oregon State statistical categories. He could become the first player in Pac-8/Pac-10/Pac-12 history to score 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds, hand out 300 assists and collect 150 steals.
Tinkle believes he can achieve all of his dreams. Since pulling his name from the NBA draft and deciding to return to school in late May, he went to work on specific facets of his game. He watched Oregon State’s roster show apparent improvement with offseason signings and the return of key veterans like guard Ethan Thompson and post Kylor Kelley during summer workouts.
“Every kid in the country wants to play in March Madness,” Tinkle said. “I’m not putting pressure on myself to get there, but I know the guys we have. We have the talent and depth. I feel like that’s the last thing I need to do, I want to do, is play in the NCAA Tournament.
“You get there, and everything falls into place.”
Tinkle wants to win and leave Oregon State with its best team in some time. But make no mistake. This year is also about adding to a resume as Tinkle searches for an NBA job. There is little doubt Tinkle could play overseas; his father, OSU coach Wayne Tinkle, played 12 years in Europe.
“But I don’t want to sell myself short. I think I’m definitely capable of the NBA,” Tres Tinkle said. “Teams told me the way the NBA is going, they definitely think I’m fit for it.”
Among areas of Tinkle’s game in which NBA personnel want to see improvement or more of it: 3-point, spot-up and free-throw shooting, guarding multiple positions, getting quicker.
Tinkle worked on his body since leaving NBA workouts, from tapping sports science people and nutritionists. He targeted his hips and core. He gets up plenty of 3-point shots each day. With a degree in hand, Tinkle is free to spend more time working on basketball while taking a lighter load of classes.
He talks often to former Oregon Ducks forward Luke Jackson, whom he calls a mentor. Tinkle likens his situation to Jackson, who decided to come back for his senior year at Oregon and became one of college basketball’s best players that season. The move paid off, as Jackson became a 2004 NBA lottery draft pick.
“My dad told me coming back they’re going to treat me like a pro, not making it easy on me,” Tinkle said.
From his viewpoint, the most important part starts Nov. 5, when the Beavers open the 2019-20 season against Cal State-Northridge.
“Biggest thing I want to show is that we can win and get to the NCAA Tournament,” Tinkle said.
As for legacy, Tinkle needs 512 points to pass Gary Payton as Oregon State’s all-time leading scorer. With a repeat or better of his junior season — 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.8 steals — only Payton can rival Tinkle in overall career statistics.
“Leaving a legacy like that will be very special, and it’ll help my case,” said Tinkle, “but I don’t think it’s the reason I came back.”
Whether Tinkle leaves Oregon State for the NBA or overseas, the plan is to keep playing basketball. He wants to play as long as possible.
“When you can’t play, it’s one of the worst things for me,” he said. “To call basketball your job, it’s awesome.”
Tinkle believes down the road perhaps he has a future as a coach, even though he says his father counsels against it because of the stress. But when Tinkle eventually hangs it up, he said, another a reunion with Wayne Tinkle is possible.
“It would definitely be fun to coach with him, or against him,” said Tinkle, “if he’s hanging around that long.”