Column: Looking back at Coach Rob’s preseason assessments
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 02:03
On Nov. 7, two days before Oregon State opened its season against Niagara, I asked head coach Craig Robinson to give me a quote about every player on the Beavers’ roster.
This week, as I tried to figure out where things went wrong for OSU this season, I dug up that audio file.
While it’s certainly not fair to blame any one individual for OSU’s disappointing season, it’s interesting to compare Robinson’s preseason comments regarding each player to that player’s ensuing production.
• Joe Burton, senior forward
Robinson on Nov. 7: “Joe Burton has really been good in the preseason this year — just outstanding. He’s got his weight down and he’s acting more like a senior. I’ve seen a maturity level in him that’s been terrific.”
Burton’s season: Burton has played better than most could have expected, particularly during the second half of Pac-12 play. He leads the team in assists (3.4), is second in rebounding (6.6) and third in scoring (11.2). He really emerged as the heart and soul of this team late in the season, when he easily could have sulked and packed it in.
• Roberto Nelson, junior guard
Robinson on Nov. 7: “I think Roberto is ready for a breakout year; he’s really put the work in. He’s dedicated himself to being a force on our team and in this conference.”
Nelson’s season: Robinson was spot on. Nelson has emerged as, without question, the Beavers’ best player and one of the elite scorers in the conference. This is the Roberto Nelson we’ve all been waiting to see, as he’s done everything in his power to right OSU’s ship this season. Though he needs to improve defensively, he should enter next season as a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate.
• Eric Moreland, sophomore forward
Robinson on Nov. 7: “Eric has matured on and off the court probably more so than anybody on our team and it shows in his game. He’s just making great decisions and he’s beginning to be a leader on this team.”
Moreland’s season: Robinson’s quote is a bit ironic given that Moreland was slapped with a three-game suspension for a “violation of team rules” in January. But, other than the suspension, Moreland’s season has gone pretty well. He’s figured out how to use his lanky, 6-foot-10 frame to his advantage on the boards, ranking second in the conference in rebounding. If he develops more of an offensive game and bulks up a bit, I wouldn’t be shocked if he leaves school for the NBA after next season.
• Devon Collier, junior forward
Robinson on Nov. 7: “Devon could end up being our leading scorer. He’s really efficient, really efficient, and had a great European trip.”
Collier’s season: Collier is the Beavers’ second-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, but it’s hard not to label his season as somewhat of a disappointment. His field goal percentage dropped from 61.5 percent last year to 50.7 percent this year, and he’s been held to eight points or less in six of OSU’s last nine games. Going into the season, I believed Collier could be the second or third scoring option on an NCAA Tournament team, now I’m not so sure.
• Ahmad Starks, junior guard
Robinson on Nov. 7: “I think people are going to be interested in seeing how Ahmad’s game evolves this year. I suspect he’s going to score a few more points, but he’s going to get more assists in the amount of time he’s going to be playing. He’s our coach on the floor; he’s going to be running this team for the most part.”
Starks’ season: Starks is playing less, scoring less and assisting less. It appears Robinson recently decided it wasn’t in OSU’s best interest for Starks to be running the team, as sophomore Challe Barton has taken over starting point guard duties. It wouldn’t be fair to say Starks’ game has regressed this season, because he’s still shooting better than 40 percent on 3s. But his role has certainly diminished, and it’ll be interesting to see what his role is as a senior. I think they should use him as a change-of-pace guard off the bench, so he can fill it up from deep when they’re in need of an offensive spark.
• Challe Barton, sophomore guard
Robinson on Nov. 7: “Challe is going to be the back-up point guard. I feel very comfortable with him when the ball is in his hands and Ahmad’s not in the game. I want him to be a little more confident, but that’s going to come, he’s only a sophomore. [I’m] really sort of grooming him to be the next Ahmad Starks.”
Barton’s season: Well, I don’t think the “grooming him to be the next Ahmad Starks” statement applies anymore. As for Barton’s confidence, it seems to be growing. He’s proven to be a better shooter than anyone gave him credit for (5-for-6 from 3 versus Utah last week), and if he can continue to develop offensively, he’ll be a decent to solid starting point guard for OSU going forward.
• Langston Morris-Walker, freshman guard
Robinson on Nov. 7: “I think Langston is a good natural defender. He’s probably the closest thing we’ve got to Jared [Cunningham] when Jared was a freshman, so that’s high praise he’s going to have to live up to.”
Morris-Walker’s season: He is, in fact, a natural defender, and I love the energy he brings off the bench. Offensively, he’s shown glimpses of potential lately after shooting the ball horribly the first half of the season. His minutes have recently been reduced, but he’s shown enough for me to believe he’ll have an expanded role on next year’s team.
• Jarmal Reid, freshman forward
Robinson on Nov. 7: “Best freshman defender we have. That’s going to get him out on the court. It’s nice to have a natural small forward on this team, we’ve sort of had hybrid small forwards, but his defense will get him on the court.”