After finishing last season with a 16-16 record, Oregon State lost a lot of production with shooting guard Roberto Nelson leading the way. Nelson scored 20.7 points per game last season, so his contributions would have been tough enough for new head coach Wayne Tinkle to account for. But add in the loss of forwards Angus Brandt, Devon Collier and Eric Moreland, and promising guard Hallice Cooke’s decision to transfer, and the Beavers lost their top five scorers from the 2013-14 campaign.
Those departures mean that the four players joining the program won’t lack for opportunities to earn minutes next season, and one of those newcomers is a player who’s surely familiar with the history of Oregon State basketball.
Gary Payton II arrives in Corvallis after spending two seasons at Salt Lake CC in Utah, where he averaged 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game last season according to Jesse Sowa of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. And while the shared name will result in some Oregon State fans thinking back to the days when his father was running the point, both father and son are hoping that fans will resist the temptation to compare the two according to Sowa.
“He’s a great defender and he needs his own identity,” the elder Payton said while meeting with the media before attending a Beavers home game in January. “When he comes here, I don’t want people to compare him to me. Please don’t. He’s not going to be Gary Payton Sr.”
However, the elder Gary added, his son earned his scholarship on his athletic talent and not his name.
“They’re going to pop up. I’ll address them when they come, but I know it’s going to come,” the younger Payton said of the comparisons in a Thursday interview at Gill Coliseum. “The mitten, it kind of doesn’t fit.”
With the personnel losses mentioned above and Challe Barton deciding to try his hand at professional basketball overseas, Payton II is essentially Oregon State’s lone point guard on the projected roster for next season. Malcolm Duvivier and Langston Morris-Walker were both members of the rotation last season but neither would be considered a point guard and the same goes for incoming freshman Chai Baker.
The lack of depth at the point guard position makes Payton a very important figure for the Beavers as they begin a new era, with Wayne Tinkle looking to build Oregon State into a program capable of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.