The Scintillating Six, Tebeau’s freshman basketball class

Josh Worden, Senior Beat Reporter

Six OSU freshmen play at Gill Coliseum and live together in the dorms

They form the highest-rated recruiting class in the history of the Oregon State men’s basketball program.

OSU’s six freshmen of 2015 — Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson, Jr., Drew Eubanks, Derrick Bruce, Gligorije Rakocevic and Kendal Manuel — have encouraged hopes of the Beavers reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 26 seasons.

They convened in Corvallis as one of the top freshman classes in the nation, and they’ve also convened into one dorm suite in Tebeau Hall.

The suite allows “The Scintillating Six” — one of several possible nicknames for the group — to be together even when not scrimmaging at the practice facility or playing in Gill Coliseum.

“We’re together 24/7,” Rakocevic said. “We have classes together. We sleep and eat together. We do homework together. We are trying to learn a lot of things from each other. We’re getting there, like family.”

The Room

Near the top of Tebeau Hall, nestled in a string of athlete dorm suites, sits a room that may have more basketball talent than any dorm room in America.

Rakocevic and Eubanks are in one room — maybe the tallest roommates in America at a combined 13-foot-9 — while Bruce and Manuel have the second room. Tinkle and Thompson, Jr., whose fathers are head coach Wayne Tinkle and assistant coach Stephen Thompson, respectively, have the room that gets the most use. Not only does it have two of the most sociable players on the team, but their Xbox also hosts rousing games of FIFA and Madden.

“It’s crazy having six guys in one little room,” Tres said. “It’s going to make playing that much easier because we have fun with each other and mess around.”

Opinions are mixed on the cleanliness of the suite; it would be understandable for six freshman to get a little messy, though Eubanks asserted that “everybody’s clean.” Others have disagreed.

“You don’t want to see our room,” Tres said, shaking his head. “We try to give each other duties to do around, but it takes about three weeks to get done.”

“I try to stay away from there as much as possible,” said senior guard Gary Payton II with a smile. ”They’re pretty messy, but they’re young. They’re free from home so they ain’t got nobody to tell them to clean, so they’re just living right now. We let them live.”

Payton II laughingly says he stays away from Tebeau, but junior guard Malcolm Duvivier, who spent his freshman year in Bloss Hall, has the opposite mentality.

“Me personally, I miss the dorm life,” he said. “I think (Tebeau) is way better than what we had at Bloss. I just tell them they’re living the life over there. It’s cool how close they are.”

The only thing missing from the room is a toy basketball hoop; there was one on a door before a rim-rattling dunk by Eubanks broke it. He’s had his share of dunks in actual OSU games this season and brought that same ferocity to his at-home dunking.

“I thought it was a dunking hoop,” he said.

Although the six all have basketball in common, they each have their respective hobbies. Thompson, Jr. is the ping-pong player, Tres says he’s a “decent bowler,” Manuel is a mini golf aficionado and Eubanks excels at bowling, checkers and pool.

“Drew’s good at all the weird games,” Manuel said.

There’s one thing they almost all do together: airboard — the handle-less segway perfect for getting to class or for a joyride around the halls of Tebeau. That is, unless an RA says it breaks the rule about not playing “sports” in the hallway and takes it away for two days, which is exactly what happened to Tres.

Coach Tinkle, meanwhile, has been accepting of his freshmen’s trendy transportation method. When Tres ordered one online and shipped it to his parents’ house in Corvallis, he was worried his dad would see it and disapprove.

“He actually liked it, which I was surprised about,” Tres said. “Of course, he said ‘as soon as one of you gets hurt, it’s done forever,’ so we’re kind’ve waiting for someone to spoil it for the rest of us, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

“I just don’t like riding it by myself, because then people judge,” added Thompson, Jr. “Everyone looks at me and then it’s awkward.”

Luckily for Thompson, Jr., all six have an airboard of their own except the 250-pound Rakocevic, who laughed about being “too heavy for it.”

As for the room in particular, the freshmen’s digs have become a hotspot for OSU players present and future. All three members of OSU’s 2016 recruiting class — JaQuori McLaughlin, Ben Kone and Keondre Dew — were hosted on their official visit by members just one class above them. In fact, Manuel was hosted by Tres, one incoming freshman hosting another.

Now, Tebeau has been a sanctuary for the freshmen, including after games. Soon after their first game in Gill Coliseum, a 76-57 exhibition win over Western Oregon on Nov. 5, the freshmen were back in Tebeau.

“We watched some NBA games, ate some pizza, talked about the game,” Eubanks said. “That was about it.”

On the Court

For such a high-rated recruiting class, the six freshmen had some struggles transitioning to the atmosphere of college basketball in both physical aspects and, maybe even more so, mental. “They had a little adjustment period over the summer where a couple of the guys were a little excited and a ego-measuring deal,” coach Tinkle said. “But we’ve been through that and we’ve had some good talks. Now they’re settling in.”

“I think at first, we came in and with such a quick transition, we thought it was as easy as high school,” Tres said. “So you try to figure out what you can and can’t do, and then are able to figure out your role – we know that we need the older guys as much as they need us, so we’re just trying to work together and be the best we can be for the team.”

The freshmen received a combined 17 scholarship offers, including 12 from Pac-12 schools, according to ESPN. The theme was clear for OSU’s underclassmen: a lot of potential and, maybe, some upcoming postseason success. When they arrived in the summer to start taking classes and working out together, however, a wake-up call was in order.

“It was eye-opening in a way because I realized I had to get a lot better,” Eubanks said of the transition. “It’s leaps and bounds from high school to college. It made me want to work harder because you have to get better if you want to play.”

With practices not starting until October, the freshmen had to make full use of the practice facility on campus. Late night workouts, shooting sessions and ball handling drills became habit, sometimes lasting late into the night. The difference was noticeable, not only in physical talent but also in attitude.

“They’re really good kids. It’s unbelievable how well-educated they are and respectful to everyone,” said senior forward Daniel Gomis, who has seen four classes of freshmen arrive in Corvallis while at OSU. ”They’re always saying the right things and willing to listen. It’s great.”

Chemistry will play a huge part in a potential postseason run, and a core of players formed largely of freshmen may fuel how far OSU goes. Though OSU’s 4-0 start is a small sample size, the freshmen have already taken a sizable role: three of OSU’s top four scorers are freshmen and the five freshmen playing — Manuel is out for the year with a broken leg — have accounted for 38.9 points per game of the Beavers’ 78.8 total. Thompson, Jr. leads the team at 11-for-20 shooting from 3-point range, Eubanks leads the team with a 74.1 percent shooting rate and Rakocevic is next at 67 percent, Tinkle’s 28 free throws on 33 attempts are more than twice that of any teammate and Bruce leads OSU with a 7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

On the floor or off, fellow players have seen a continual integration of the freshmen into the program.

“You might see some people post on social media, ‘oh, we’re family,’” Gomis said. “But I feel like with this team, when they say something, they mean it.”

‘Family’ is the word Gomis used, and there may be the most appropriate description for the group of six freshmen living in one dorm room. They’re around each other constantly, talking about games together, working on homework together and living out the freshman dream together.

Just maybe, they’ll help OSU create waves in the postseason this year. And they would do it together, of course.

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