Hoops: Front court Preview

If the Beavers are to build on last season and take another step forward, it hinges largely on the development and growth of their big men, from senior Cheikh N’Diaye to freshman Ben Kone.

Tres Tinkle, appears nicely along in his recovery from offseason surgery, and will look to build on an impressive freshman campaign that earned him all-freshman team honors. He’s a legit inside-out threat for the Beavers in the post.

Without question, Drew Eubanks was the biggest surprise last season. He went from being a potential redshirt candidate (my opinion) to starting 30 of OSU’s 32 games. He quickly became a fan favorite due to his above-the-rim-offensive game.

Both Tinkle and he will need to step up even more this season to offset the loss of program mainstays like Olaf Schaftenaar, Daniel Gomis, and Jarmal Reid. The good news is that incoming freshmen Kone and Keondre Dew are highly regarded. 

And then there’s my X-factor, Gligorige Rakocevic. His numbers might have not shown it, but he displayed a good feeling for the game and a nice touch around the hoop. Plus, he can hit his free throws.

He’s apparently trimmed down and if his conditioning is improved, he could be a difference maker down low for the Beavers. Imagine a lineup with him at the five, Eubanks at the four, and Tinkle at the three. Yowza!

Here’s a look at the Beavers frontcourt this season, with some pure speculation to how each player might fare this year. These projections are my opinion only, and should be taken with a grain (perhaps huge) of salt.

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Tres Tinkle — Sophomore

What he brings: Tinkle is one of the more versatile post players in the Pac-12 as a sophomore. He’s not afraid to mix it up inside, but is just as comfortable stepping outside and taking three-pointers. He’s also aggressive on defense, making him a tone-setter at both ends of the floor for the Beavers.

What he needs to do: He’s as solid as they come, but Tinkle needs to finish around the hoop more effectively, or least draw more fouls. At times, it seemed like he tried to adjust too much, resulting in his shots getting altered or blocked. If he can be more dominant at the rim, watch out.

Projection: There’ll be stiff competition from Stephen Thompson Jr., but Tinkle should lead the Beavers in scoring this season, because not only is he year more experienced, but he will get to the free throw line more due to being aggressive. It wouldn’t be surprising if he plays some point-center to help the offense flow.

Drew Eubanks — Sophomore
What he brings: What more can you say about Eubanks’ athleticism? It’s off the charts for someone his size. As a result, it enables him to be a force on the offensive end above the rim, and he does use it to alter shots on defense. More surprising is that he has jumper and can hit free throws. So, Hack-a-Drew won’t work.

What he needs to do: Eubanks needs to use his body more on defense and not always go for the block. Doing this not only ensures he’ll be in position defensively more often, but also for grabbing rebounds. If he can improve in these two areas, he’ll be one of the best post players in the Pac-12.

Projection: Look for Eubanks to up his scoring to about 12 points and eight rebounds per game, while improving his defense slowly but steady — setting him up for a monster junior year. Call me crazy, but if he develops well the next two years, he could be an NBA prospect. 

Gligorige Rakocevic — Sophomore

What he brings: Rakocevic might not have the fanfare that his classmates do, but he has plenty of upside, especially on offense. He has a nice soft touch, can make his free throws, and understands the game well. Due to his size, he’s not easy to move on defense, so opponents do have to work a bit against him.

What he needs to do: The goal should be to get on the court more and make his presence known. He has the skills; he just needs to be able to keep up for longer periods of time. If he can be the grounded post and free up Eubanks to take more risks on defense, it could be a boon to OSU’s team defense.

Projection: A slimmed down, more conditioned Rakocevic is huge, enough that he could start when Coach Tinkle wants to go big. At the very least, expect his minutes to be in the 12-15 minute range this season. In any case, he’s my pick for most improved player. 

Cheikh N’Diaye — Senior

What he brings: Legit 7-footers are hard to come by, for any program, but OSU has one in N’Diaye, who is also their lone senior this season. With that in mind, N’Diaye has experience and should know the conference well.

What he needs to do: If N’Diaye can be this year’s version of Daniel Gomis, that would be much welcomed. What does that entail? Grabbing some boards, providing solid defense, and providing leadership.

Projection: He’ll play a lot during the nonconference slate while Kone recovers and Dew adjusts to the college level. During that time, he’ll probably block a few shots, too. Offensively, don’t expect too much outside of putbacks. 

Ben Kone — Freshman

What he brings: Kone is extremely athletic and explosive. He averaged 23 points and nearly 15 rebounds per game before an injury ended his senior season. He could should help the Beavers on the boards this season once he’s able to play, an area they struggled in last year. It will be interesting to see his impact on offense.

What he needs to do: Well, besides nut rushing things and coming back strong, it would be nice if he can focus on being a high-energy guy off the bench who crashes the boards. That might how he can generate most of his offense early on. He also needs to be able to help down low defensively, especially with help defense.

Projection: If Kone recovers fully from his injury, don’t be surprised if he’s the first big man off the bench for the Beavers, especially if Rakocevic starts. Outside of Eubanks, the Beavers lack explosiveness down low, and Kone can provide that in bunches — and he should have a chance to do so, provide he comes back strong.

Keondre Dew — Freshman

What he brings: Dew’s JUCO stats don’t stand out (5.7 points and five rebounds per game), but he provides much needed depth at a position that lost five post players from last season. Surprisingly, he did shoot 56 percent from 3-point range last season. So, maybe he can help pull defenders away from the paint.

What he needs to do: It will be interesting to see how his offensive game translates to D-I ball, so Dew will need to make his presence felt by doing the little things first, such as rebounding and playing defense. In fact, I am hoping he could be a defensive specialist on taller guards or lighter forwards.

Projection: Due to Kone being sidelined, Dew will play a lot of minutes early this season. How he does will determine his role once Kone returns. However, I think he could emerge as a solid defender right away for the Beavers. The nonconference part of the season should tell us a lot about Dew’s potential.

Christian Russell — Freshman

What he brings: A walk-on from Salem, it’s hard to say what he’ll bring to table outside of his size. He played for three different high schools, and it appears as if he might be a late bloomer of sorts.

What he needs to do: Russell needs to be able to play passable defense (stay in front of his man), grab boards, and not hurt the team offensively. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s like when he sees the court.

Projection: If he plays much, it will be due to foul trouble or a blowout. He’ll probably get most of his minutes in the nonconference portion of the season. That said you can’t teach size, maybe he’ll be a solid developmental project. 

What is your outlook for the Beavers’ frontcourt this season?

In case you missed it:

Beav Hoops: Backcourt Preview

Beav Hoops: Preseason Outlook

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