Thompsons, Tinkles reflect on basketball-family connection

Evan Baughman, Sports Contributor

As college basketball programs typically build their rosters by creating recruiting pipelines across the nation, the Oregon State Men’s Basketball team found three of their starters no further than their own living room.

From the Thompson brothers to forward Tres Tinkle, the on-the-court father-son connection has propelled the Beavers this season to their highest Pac-12 finish since 1990. However, Tinkle said his first two years with the program were the most difficult since he had to adjust to how the familial dynamic impacted the team. He added that it was easy to talk back to his father, OSU Head Coach Wayne Tinkle, after getting harped at, but Tres knew others on the team were watching how he would react. According to Tinkle, it was necessary for him to learn how to take his father’s criticism in order to become a leader on the team.

“Obviously our relationship is different, but if you want to be a leader you have to be able to take what he is saying and kind of move on,” Tinkle said. “I just think I needed to mature and understand where he is coming from, and his perspective as well.” 

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As he has matured, Tinkle has come to earn his spot on the team. With a larger role, more freedom has come his way, and so has more wins as the Beavers have earned a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Through it all, Tres said having the opportunity to play for his father has been a special experience.

“At the end of the day, it’s my father. Playing for him is special and not a lot of people get to do it,” Tinkle said. “One of the main things we don’t want is to look back and think this was a bad time, which it never was. But we wanted to strengthen our relationship, I think when we look back we’re going to see how special it was.”

For OSU Assistant Coach Stephen Thompson Sr., he watched his sons grow up and play basketball, and like many parents, he wanted his kid to do the best in whatever they try to do. For Thompson Sr., his sons’ gravitation towards basketball was well within his forte. 

“To watch them grow as children, moving up through high school, and then have the opportunity to coach them in college is something we dreamed about and prayed about when they were young,” Thompson Sr. said. “For it to happen is an unbelievable feeling.”

For the Thompson brothers, part of their reasoning to play at Oregon State was to play for their father. Prior to coaching at Oregon State, Thompson Sr. played professional basketball and coached at California State Los Angeles. Despite having two sons on the team, Thompson Sr. said that he has treated them no differently than any of the other players.

“On the court, we’re all Beavers — we’re all one team. I treat them no differently than I would treat anybody else. All of them are my sons when we are on the court,” Thompson Sr. said. 

Senior guard Stephen Thompson Jr. recalled following his father during his basketball career. Stephen would accompany him during games, practices and workouts. Eventually, basketball would become a big part of Stephen’s life. 

“It was always a dream of ours. We always talked about it. And then he finally got the Division-I coaching job,” Thompson Jr. said.

Now in his final season, Thompson Jr. has finished his career with 1757 points, 399 rebounds and 307 assists in the 93 games he has started in.

As Thompson Jr.’s collegiate career comes to a close this year, it will also be the last time the Thompson trio will be together on the court underneath the NCAA lights. For his brother, Ethan Thompson, the imminent closure of this chapter for his family makes every moment a bit more special.

“I’ve just been trying to take every game, just playing hard every game, just enjoying it with him,” Ethan said. “Just knowing that this is the last for sure time that we will be on a team together, just makes every moment special — Every big shot that he hits, or something like that, I just enjoy it a little more.”