Oregon begins men’s basketball with a revised slate, focusing on defense and culture

Six months after blowing up the men’s basketball team’s roster, Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle took an important step Wednesday in the rebuilding project.

Training for the 2022-23 season officially begins today. The team – and for that matter, the coaching staff – joining Tinkle on the ground have little leftovers from last year’s 3-28 squad.

Four players and one assistant coach return from the 2021-22 squad. Six freshmen, three transfers and two assistant coaches perform their first practice at OSU on Wednesday.

There is not a lot of guesswork about how it will play out this season. It’s a massive rebuild, with Beavers dependent on freshman growth, second-year guard Glenn Taylor and two experienced postal players at Rodrigue Andela and San Francisco relocation Dzmitry Ryuny. The odds are certain that the Beavers will be chosen to finish last in the Pac-12 pre-season poll. Getting to the double-digit winnings will be a challenge.

By March, when Oregon heads to Las Vegas for the conference championship, Tinkle hopes to have a team ready for the long haul. The OSU squad that leads the defense, plays physically, turns good defensive possession into an effective transitional attack and takes care of basketball.

“If we could say that in Vegas, we’d be confident we could beat anyone in that tournament,” said Tinkle.

Rebuilding the roster began last March, when players began announcing transfer decisions, or simply quit college basketball altogether. Then came the high school seniors’ recruiting pitches and transfers. Heading into his ninth year as a coach for Oregon, Tinkle wanted to restore order.

“Our first focus was to take back our culture, on and off the field, in the classroom,” he said. “All those things that were important to us the first seven years. We felt the best way to regain consistency was to start with a younger junior class.”

Half a dozen starters at Beavers are a mix of regional, national and international players. Of the three transfers, two were out for a long time due to injuries to guards Christian Wright and Justin Rochlin. The four returnees are Taylor, Andela, post-Chul Marial and goalkeeper Dexter Akano.

Also new to the team are assistant coaches Eric Rivino and Tim Shelton. Rivino is the former Technical Director of the University of Portland.

Most of the roster members have been together since the beginning of the summer. Over the summer, Tinkle says the team had an average collegiate score of about 3.50. Tinkle took advantage of the NCAA’s rule that allows an international trip every four years by moving the team to Italy, where they played three games in August.

“We’re going to be really young, but the experiences we had over the summer have been great building our chemistry and reclaiming our culture,” Tinkle said.

What Tinkle is happy about his team in 2022-23 is that they love each other, they are competitive and “they let us coach them. When you have this group for a long period of time, we achieve success.”

Tinkle promises that there will be hiccups. Playing Without Conference, which includes three games at Portland’s PK Legacy, offers a variety of competition. The same goes for the Pac-12 season, as many of the top 25 OSU teams await at UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and USC.

“We’ll take some chins, probably. But they kept it together and played hard and let us train them,” Tinkle said.

The Beavers’ 2022-23 gameplay has changed slightly from the original plan due to injuries to Wright and Rochelle. Wright, a transfer from Georgia, is out indefinitely after sustaining a knee injury in Italy. Rochlin, from Arizona, had spinal surgery and was out for two months. Losses in guard depth and Tinkle plan for more defensive pressure from the backcourt.

“We have to get smarter going forward until we’re 100% verified,” he said.

However, Tinkle thinks Oregon fans will notice the focus on defense. He likes the depth inside, with 7-2 Mariel, a veteran of Rioni and Andela manicured. Tinkle says defense has to be strength.

Taylor is heading into the season in a whole new role. Back up as a freshman a year ago, Taylor should be 6-5 among the top scorers at Ohio State University. The challenge for Taylor, Tinkle said, is to focus opponents on their reconnaissance report.

“He’s capable. We wouldn’t throw him in the fire if he wasn’t. His tail works. He’s got a great demeanor and he’s a great teammate,” Tinkle said of Taylor.

Oregon opens the season November 7 against Tulsa at Jill Coliseum. The Beavers don’t leave Oregon until they play at USC on December 4. OSU’s non-conference schedule includes six games at the Gill Coliseum.

Nick Daschle reported from Corvallis

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