The loss of Gary Payton II might grab the attention, but the Beavers might feel the losses of Derrick Bruce and Malcolm Duvivier even more this season, from both a depth and talent perspective.
Bruce, who left the program, came on strong at the end of last season, showing an uncanny ability to shoot the three and also pull up inside the arc — in addition to his superb ball handling. He had a shot at being OSU’s top scorer this year.
The more recent news that Duvivier will miss this season due to person reasons will hurt OSU experience-wise. The senior also figured to be the team’s point guard this year. Despite his inconsistent play, he has good size and was a good defender.
Stephen Thompson Jr. and JaQuori McLaughlin should carry the backcourt offensively, while it will be more of team effort defensively without the one-man wrecking crew called GP II.
Big question for this unit: Who will be the primary ball-handler? A smart bet would be Ronnie Stacy, with Thompson Jr. a close second. Another big for this group is that is must stay healthy or things could get hairy.
So, here’s a look at the Beavers backcourt this season, with a little crystal ball gazing in terms of how each player might fare this year. Projections are my opinion only, and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Stephen Thompson JR. — Sophomore
What he brings: The sophomore guard is a silky smooth shooter, who is aggressive and not afraid to take shots, even during crunch time. He hit a game-winning shot at the buzzer last season against Washington. He’s also a solid defender, as he averaged more than a steal per game last year.
What he needs to do: Thompson is unquestionably OSU top’s perimeter option this season, so teams will focus on him. So, he needs to be able to pass out of double teams, as well as be able to pull up more on drives to keep defenders off balance. He also needs to increase his 3-point FG percentage.
Projection: With Bruce’s departure, Thompson Jr. now is my pick to lead the Beavers in scoring this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he averages 15+ shots per game this season. He also could help with the void left by Payton II on defense, as he’s quick and seems to get in the passing lanes well.
Ronnie Stacy — Junior
What he brings: It’s hard to say what kind of impact the JUCO transfer out of Tyler Junior College in Texas will have for the Beavers. He only averaged 8.6 points last season, but his 5.2 assists are impressive. And honestly, with the loss of Bruce and Duvivier, the Beavers need a primary ball-handler.
What he needs to do: Stacy needs to become the Beavers’ point guard, because at this point, he’s the closest thing they have to a PG. He especially must be adept at getting the ball into the post to Drew Eubanks and whoever else is down low.
Projection: I envision Stacy being a Lamar Hurd-like type player for Beavers; smart, steady, and use his length effectively on defense. If he can set up the offense and play solid defense, he was a steal of a recruit.
JaQuori McLaughlin — Freshman
What he brings: McLaughlin is the crown jewel of Wayne Tinkle’s second recruiting class as he was a 4-star and Washington’s Mr. Basketball. Simply put, he’s a playmaker, whether he needs to score or distribute the ball. He has a nice mid-range game that should go well with Thompson Jr.’s long-range game.
What he needs to do: McLaughlin needs to play well enough to earn significant minutes and put up the same type of numbers Thompson Jr. put up as freshman (10 points per game). He also needs to be able to handle the ball at times, when Thompson Jr. or Stacey are covered or on the bench.
Projection: Before the losses of Bruce/Duvivier, I hoped that McLaughlin would be the Beavers’ sixth man this season, or possibly redshirt. But that’s not happening now. In fact, I think he’ll start, and if he adjusts quickly and well to college ball, I could see him being the secondary ball-handler, ahead of Stacy or Thompson Jr.
Kendal Manuel — Freshman
What he brings: He missed all of last season after breaking his fibula, so it has been more than a year and half since Manuel last played in a game. However, he was a 3-star recruit (247 Sports), two-time all-state first team selection, so he’s no slouch. He also was team captain in three sports, a testament to his leadership skills.
What he needs to do: If he’s fully recovered, there’s no reason he can’t earn minutes, but he’ll need to play within himself and let the offense come to him. He was a solid-inside out player in high school, so let’s see if he can be the same at this level. A big key for him, too, will be how well he fares defensively.
Projection: I expect Maunel to play at least 10 minutes per game this season due to depth issues. Don’t be surprised if he ends up contributing quite a bit, as I think he was an under-the-radar addition who could pan out quite nicely for the Beavers, if he’s given a chance to learn and grow.
Tanner Sanders — Sophomore
What he brings: Sanders walked onto the Beavers during Tinkle’s first season, and held his own. He didn’t rejoin the team last season, due to focusing on baseball. He’s got good size, plays tough defense, and can knock down the 3-pointer. More importantly, he knows the system hands down.
What he needs to do: Sanders pretty much needs to do what he did the first time around, play hard and smart. He’s a good athlete, who at 6-5 is the tallest of OSU’s guards. It will be important for him to limit turnovers and not force things. Also, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the talent around him.
Projection: With Duvivier departure, Sanders recent return to the team is huge. He’s not going to be a difference-maker this season most likely, but he will provide much needed depth and size. He probably will get decent minutes during nonconference play as McLaughlin and Manuel get their college legs under them.
Daine Muller — Junior
What he brings: Muller redshirted last season after transferring from Montana State. Prior to that he was at University of Montana, where he redshirted too. So, it appears he hasn’t played hoops since high school, but he was Gatorade’s Montana player of the year. That said, it’s hard to tell what he can contribute to the team.
What he needs to do: He needs to take care of take care of the ball, stay in front of his man, and do the little things.
Projection: He’s probably last in line when it comes to playing time. If he’s forced into action outside of closing minutes of games, it’s probably a sign of other players being in foul trouble.
What are your keys for the OSU backcourt season?