A disciple of Lute Olson, John seems to have channeled his mentor's ability to get a team to play with maximum confidence. The challenge this season is take the difficult step from respectability to an NCAA tournament team.
|2005 - 2006 Oregon State|
|1||Lamar Hurd||G||6-4||195||Senior||Houston, TX|
|2||Calvin Hampton||F-C||6-10||247||Freshman||Fort Washington, MD|
|3||Marcel Jones||F||6-8||215||Sophomore||Los Angeles, CA|
|5||Josh Tarver||G||6-3||175||Freshman||Portland, OR|
|10||Jason Fontenet||G||5-10||168||Senior||Phoenix, AZ|
|11||Nick Dewitz||F||6-8||230||Senior||Chandler, AZ|
|12||Joey McConnell||G||6-4||195||Sophomore||Madras, OR|
|13||Chris Stephens||G||6-2||195||Senior||Portland, OR|
|14||Jack McGillis||G-F||6-6||210||Freshman||Missoula, MT|
|22||Wesley Washington||G||6-3||175||Sophomore||Anaheim, CA|
|23||Michael Johnson||F||6-5||230||Junior||Portland, OR|
|35||Kyle Jeffers||C||6-9||258||Junior||Santa Rosa, CA|
|43||Brett Casey||G||6-1||170||Freshman||Corvallis, OR|
Likely starters are in bold.
Jay John comments, "We have to try and capitalize on the momentum we have, though. It's a completely different mindset now, one that hasn't been felt since the days of Gary Payton. We're anticipating that to carry over into this season, too."
Experience continues to be the most important ingredient to winning in college basketball and that will be the Beavers strongest asset.
"We have four seniors who have a tremendous amount of experience," John said. "They've experienced winning and have experienced turning the program around. Those guys are all going to make major contributions."
While OSU returns some savvy veterans, they will miss the presence of All Pac-10 forward David Lucas. Lucas was the heart and soul of the Beavers resurgence last year as his strength and footwork made him almost impossible to stop one-on-one down low. His loss leaves OSU with a rebounding and scoring void.
The most likely candidate to fill that vacuum is returning senior Nick DeWitz. The 6-8 All Pac-10 Honorable Mention winner who transferred from Iowa two seasons ago was a huge surprise last year. A dynamic and versatile player, DeWitz is as likely to dunk on you as he is to hit a three pointer. Among the conference's premier shot blockers, John believes he is poised for great things.
"Nick is really going to have an outstanding season," John said. "His ability to score inside and outside, and to rebound and block shots, really makes him a valuable all-around player."
DeWitz won't be asked to do it all by himself as he can lean on three fellow seniors who will man the Beavers backcourt. It starts with two point guards who couldn't be more different from one another. Four year starter Lamar Hurd is what you find when look up a "pass-first" point guard in the basketball encyclopaedia. Hurd has great length and quickness and takes good care of the ball. Always among the conference leaders in assist to turnover ratio, Hurd posted a respectable 1.8/1 ratio in 2004-5. Hurd is a strong defender who is a jump shot away from being a very good player. Lamar sees his role evolving as he enters his senior year,
"I think the main things that coach and I already talked about during off-season - I still have the same goals of being a good ball handler and passer - but bottom line I've got to step up and score more. We lost two major scorers this last season, and it's up to players like myself and the other two guards, Jason and Chris, to fill that gap. So it's something that just must be done."
Jason Fontenot is the anti-Hurd, where Hurd is long, Fontenot is not, where Hurd is poised and careful, Fontenot knows only one speed, full out. Jason is a scoring point guard who loves to push the ball and shoot the three. When he's hitting his jumper, he's a game changer, when he's not, the Beavers struggle.
The third senior in the backcourt is Chris Stephens. Stephens is a spot up shooter who plays within himself. Not particularly quick or athletic, Stephens still manages to be feisty on defense and on the boards. His scoring declined from 15.8 points in 2003-04 to 10 points last year, partly because players like Fontenot and DeWitz became scoring options. He is the Pac-10's active leader in three-pointers made and should become OSU's all-time record holder before he is done.
Sasha Cuic comes back for his sophomore year after earning an All Pac-10 Freshman Honorable Mention nod. Cuic started last season like a house on fire using his size and shooting touch to great effect. As the season wore on, Cuic's lack of strength and inability to create his own shot led to more pedestrian results. Cuic is another of the growing contingent of skilled European big men who can face the basket and score. If he can adjust to the more physical style of play prevalent in the United States, he has the ability to be an All Pac-10 performer down the road.
Marcel Jones, a 6-8 forward is an athletic player who can defend and rebound. A slasher, Jones is unlikely to score a lot of points, but his presence can help the Beavers slow down the Pac-10's plethora of athletic wing players.
It's in the paint where OSUs season is likely to be decided. Can Kyle Jeffers or Liam Hughes provide John with a consistent defensive and rebounding force? Jeffers is more likely to fit the bill after being a part time starter his first two seasons. Jeffers has the build and soft hands to contribute in the paint but he has to lose his membership in the all-hacker team as he averaged a foul for every five minutes played. His development is likely to be key for the Beavers season.
Liam Hughes is a 7-2/300 lb project entering his sophomore season. A former high school teammate of Cal guard Richard Midgley, Hughes defines the word "raw", but his size alone will earn him some minutes. In any case, someone will have to help OSU out on the glass.
"I'm not nervous about the rebounding," Jay said. "It's not a problem we can't sort out. It's an obvious one and we'll make a concerted effort. I'm just going to tell them, 'Just one more rebound each, guys.'"
Two recruits could impact the squad as John welcomes what is clearly the best recruiting class of his tenure. Among the newcomers are former Cal verbal commit Wesley Washington, a 6'2" sophomore (one year of JC) guard whose athleticism and defensive intensity are ahead of his offensive skills, and 6'3" freshman point guard Josh Tarver. Tarver has great bloodlines as he is the brother of former UCLA star Shon Tarver. Beaver fans will have to wait awhile to see Tarver on the court while he recovers from a broken foot.
Oregon State has the experience (four seniors) and the talent (DeWitz and Cuic) to at least contend for the top half of the Pac-10. Where they lack is depth in the frontcourt, especially in the paint. Jeffers and Hughes aren't going to scare the better Pac-10 post players and if they fail to contribute, the Beavers will become a very perimeter oriented team. If the Beavers cannot rebound or score down low consistently, taking that final step to the NCAA tournament will have to wait.
Oregon State will finish 7th in the Pac-10.
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