Grit in the Midst of the Grind

By: Amy Schwartz, Multimedia Contributor

Shoulders back and chin up. The expectations head coach Wayne Tinkle has set for his basketball team go way beyond x’s and o’s; they reach to his players’ characters.

After the first NCAA Tournament dance in 25 years, the Beavers have found themselves at a loss for answers. The loss of Gary Payton II, a series of injuries and a young roster have left Coach Tinkle’s post-season dreams in the dust and instead led the Beavers through a season of adversity.

Midway through the season, the Beavers will head to Los Angeles to face USC and UCLA without a Pac-12 victory. The Beavers’ only hope at this point is to be somewhat competitive.

Junior forward Matt Dahlen knows the NCAA Tournament is out of the question, but won’t let that get in the way of competing.

“Why not go compete with UCLA? USC?” said Dahlen. “We’ve got nothing to lose.”

This season has been a grind for the Beavers, who have found themselves with a 4-20 record in February. “It is a grind and we haven’t won a Pac-12 game yet. We’re going to come every day. Listen to the coaches and keep pushing.” Dahlen continued, “I think we’re close.”

Gligorije Rakocevic stressed how important it is for the Beavers to keep working despite how their season has turned out.

“We are all excited to be here. We just work every single day. This year has been tough for us but we all want to get better,” Rakocevic said. “I’m sure we will get there no matter what. We are here for it. I really hope we will change some things before the end of the season.”

Although sophomore forward Tres Tinkle may be lost for the remainder of the season due to a wrist injury early in the season, his Coach (and dad) won’t let that defeat him.

“He knows what we’re lacking and he knows what we’re missing. He’s down because he thinks that he can provide a lot of that for us,” coach Tinkle said. ”We always just kind of smirk because we know there’s good days ahead of us. We share some of the positivity back and forth as a reminder that we’re going to get through it and there’s good times ahead of us.”

Coach Tinkle has leaned on family and friends this season.

“My wife, she has always been great. We’ve won championships and you come home and it’s just another day, or you have a really tough loss, it’s just another day.  She’s been great as far as just keeping us focused and on task. We always say, ‘You don’t ever get too high, you don’t ever get too low.’”

Through the Beavers’ adversity, Tinkle has stayed focused on the future of the program.

“You don’t ever want days like these but I know and I’m confident that we’ll be stronger down the road. We’ve got to remember that these guys are always looking at us so if we expect them to have their shoulders back and their chin up that we walk around that way. I’m blessed with great family and good friends who make sure I’m not getting too down as well.”

Tinkle has stayed focused on keeping his players’ spirit up while also keeping them disciplined.  “We’ve got to get the message home especially when you’re talking about the same thing week after week,” Tinkle said. “They also need to know that you’re in their corner, that you believe in them, that you feel there are opportunities there if we play the way we are supposed to, that we can have success and get that win that may spark some real momentum.”

USC and UCLA could be the biggest tests of the season for the Beavers. Coach Tinkle is prepared to take his players to Los Angeles to spark the momentum that could break the seal of the season.

@TheAmySchwartz