Men's basketball holds media day, ready for new season
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 01:10
There are no excuses for the Oregon State Men’s basketball team this season.
At least that’s the way it looks on paper. The Beavers are returning every player from last year’s squad except for one. And although they lost Jared Cunningham — who averaged 17.9 points per game — to the NBA draft, they are still very confident going into the 2012-13 season.
“We’ve got everybody coming back except for the NBA first-round draft pick, but everybody else is back with a year more experience and a year more confidence, which is important,” said head coach Craig Robinson at the Oregon State men’s basketball media day Thursday.
Nine of the 16 players on the active roster are upperclassmen and the starting five is going to be almost identical to last season (insert Roberto Nelson for Jared Cunningham).
An area the Beavers struggled in last year was finishing games, something they will look to correct this year with more experience under their belt.
“I think we had a lot of games last year where we were probably the better team on the floor for three quarters and then down the stretch we maybe let the other team get a break and we just couldn’t close it out,” said senior forward/center Angus Brandt. “We lost a lot of games last year within five points and I think that if we’d won the games that we’d lost by that close of a margin it would have been a completely different season.”
Brandt led the Beavers in scoring and rebounding during their undefeated European tour this summer, averaging 15.8 points per game and 8.8 rebounds.
He’ll be a starter, as will Eric Moreland and either Devon Collier or Joe Burton (Robinson said he hadn’t made up his mind yet between those two).
In his press conference, Robinson called Collier and Moreland NBA prospects and it is easy to see why. Collier can’t be stopped around the basket and Moreland has the tools that NBA draft analysts drool over.
As easy as it is to sit and dote on the Beavers’ experience, the real difference maker this season looks to be the 2012 recruiting class. Langston Morris-Walker, Victor Robbins, Jarmal Reid, and Olaf Schaftenaar are all true freshmen and they all expect to see action this season.
“Our class is really special, this 2012 class coming in,” Morris-Walker, who hails from Berkley, Calif., said. “We all bring something unique and different to the table. We all challenge the first team. Roberto’s been a real guide to me but I definitely have challenged him and we both up each other’s game.”
Robbins echoed this sentiment, saying, “As a class, we’ve actually been challenging the first team. We are a pretty good class so we’ve been coming in, getting big on defense, getting rebounds, and they don’t expect that from freshmen.”
This season should not only give these freshmen a chance to contribute off the bench and provide a spark for the second unit, but should also give them experience when they are the starters in a year or two.
Consistency was something the team lacked in the Jay John era but it looks like Craig Robinson has finally found some. The biggest question mark going into the first game is definitely the absence of Cunningham and the play of his replacement, Nelson.
Robinson had nothing but praise for Nelson, especially his offseason.
“You know when you give [your kids] a compliment . . . the next thing they do is [mess] it up,” Robinson said with a chuckle. “As soon as you say something nice, it messes everything up . . . But all joking aside, [his improvement] has been what I think will transcend this team. He is easily the best guy on the team.”
If Nelson can take what he’s been doing in practice and make it happen on the hardwood, this Beaver team will easily prove wrong the pundits who picked them to finish eighth in the Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll. The Beavers don’t mind that No. 8 ranking, though.
“We do have a big chip [on our shoulders],” Nelson said. “Everybody’s coming out and picking us low and this year we’re kind of just trying not to set big expectations, we’re trying to have small goals, and achieve those small goals and hopefully later on during the season those small goals will turn into big goals for us.”
The first game of the Oregon State men’s basketball season is three weeks ago, when they take on Lewis & Clark in Corvallis on November 4th.
Alex Crawford, sports reporter