Beaver Basketball picking up where they left off, look forward to upcoming season

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Alejandro Paniagua, Sports Contributor

The Oregon State men’s basketball team breaking it out at practice on October 20, 2021. Last season, the Beavers finished with a 20-13 record, winning the school’s first PAC-12 Championship, and making it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

Alejandro Paniagua , Sports Contributor

It was only last year where the Oregon State men’s basketball team capped off one of the best finishes in program history.

After projecting to finish 12th in the PAC-12 conference, the Beavers would go on to win their first PAC-12 championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, and would make it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis, the first time doing so since 1982.

The Beavers basketball season opener is just under three weeks away. The defending PAC-12 champions have eight returning players; senior forwards Maurice Callo, Warith Alatishe and Rodrique Andela. Senior center Roman Silva. Junior forward Isaiah Johnson and junior guards Gianni Hunt, Jarod Lucas, and DyShawn Hobson. The experienced team gets help with the addition of six players coming via the transfer portal.

Senior guard Xzavier Malone-Key spent some time at Rider University before attending Fairleigh Dickinson for three seasons. Junior guard Dexter Akanno transferred to Oregon State from Marquette University, while Junior guard Tre’ Williams transferred the University of Minnesota. Junior center Chol Marial attended University of Maryland before becoming a Beaver, while junior guard Dashawn Davis and Junior forward Ahmad Rand attended University of Memphis prior to OSU.

The team has two freshmen, forward Glenn Taylor Jr from Las Vegas, Nevada and guard Jack Cherry from Reno, Nevada. Glenn Taylor Jr attended Arizona Compass Prep and was named a four star recruit before committing to Oregon State.  Ultimately, it was the atmosphere that led Glenn Taylor Jr to commit to the “best college town in the PAC-12”. Jack Cherry attended Galena high school where he was named Rail City Classic Most Valuable Player as a junior.

As for the starting lineup, only time will tell as to how exactly that will look in the coming weeks. “There’s only 200 minutes for five people… [but] if we buy into it, the versatility that I think we have potentially could be a big strength for us.” says Coach Tinkle. “Blending returners with new guys everyone wants to be on the floor because of that level of competitiveness they have,”

The players recognize the competitiveness on the court too. Forward Warith Alatishe said, “ We can run any lineup. We can go big, we can go small. We feel like we can guard anyone in the country,” Alatishe, who recently got recognition as a preseason first team all PAC-12 player has the stats to back that up. Warith led the teams in blocks per game (1.4), rebounds per game (8.6), and was tied in steals per game (1.2).

Another player who got preseason recognition as a part of the second team all PAC-12 is junior guard Jarod Lucas. “My shooting ability has led me to that [accolade], but I have to be able to build and build on the defensive end and be a leader,” says Jarod. Lucas is expected to grow his role on this team as well with the departure of former Beaver, Ethan Thompson, who recently signed with the Bulls. When asked about Ethan, Lucas had nothing but respect and recognized how big a part of the success of last season with his play and his leadership. Lucas adds “ There’s definitely big shoes [to fill] but there’s expectations I’m ready for.” Lucas was second in points per game, first in threes throughout the season, third in field goals made, and had the highest free throw percentage at 89.6%.

Last year’s team had a pre-season ranking of 12th and carried the mantra of “not 12th” throughout a season that saw them go through Covid, an Elite Eight appearance, and the school’s first PAC-12 championship. After last season’s success, the rankings were a bit more friendly to them, placing them tied fourth alongside Arizona. Only teams ahead were UCLA, Oregon, and USC. When asked if they pay attention to the rankings Jarod Lucas says, “It’s hard to say you don’t look at it cause you do, you see it all over the place… its [just] fuel for us.”

Beavers basketball is built around chemistry and this year is no different. With the addition of transfers and freshmen, chemistry tends to be a bit difficult to keep up with. However, that is not an issue within this team. Taylor Jr said, “Being vocal is the number one thing.. With the crowd yelling.. All you can hear is your teammates.”

Communication is huge with chemistry, it demonstrates trust, and being connected. Taylor Jr. said, “[with] everything it’s just comforting knowing your brothers got you,” When freshmen have trust with the team after only being with the team a few months, it’s a great sign of things to come. Alatishe compares the chemistry from last year and now and says “ We can [built] it a lot earlier… This year as a team is already clicking. Everybody is already with each other.”

The competition is at an all time high and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The team hired its first full time strength and conditioning coach (Sean Conaty) this season, and it’s noticeable. Senior center Roman Silva is a testament to that. “[Roman] has shown increased mobility and is getting into better shape,” says Coach Tinkle.

Something that the players missed last season was the love from the fans at Gill Coliseum and around the world. Head coach Wayne Tinkle said “This place becomes such a tough arena for opponents to play in when fans are in there and we look forward to getting them back.” The arena is expected to be packed with fans after a year of none to very limited and after the precedent success of the 2020 season.

The Beavers embark on not being satisfied with the events of last season and are determined to be capable of getting back to the NCAA tournament. That journey all starts with an opener against Portland State on Nov. 9.