Oregon State Basketball Preview

Young, inexperienced, and hungry are three words that personify the 2003 Oregon State basketball team. The youthful Beavers will be looking to establish their identity this season after losing their top three scorers, top two rebounders, blocked shot leader, and experienced leadership.

Oregon State will be playing without a senior on the roster for the first time in 25 years.  They return seven lettermen, but only one starter, point guard Lamar Hurd, while six new players join the 12th winningest program in the country.

Jay John led the Beavers to a 13-15 record in his first season at Oregon State.

"This is a very exciting time for this program," head coach Jay John said. "We are young, no doubt about that, but we also have athleticism that we didn't have last season. This is truly a transition year for Oregon State basketball."

In John’s first year at Oregon State he led the Beavers to a 13-15 record, 6-12 in the Pac-10. Despite the under five hundred season, John breathed life back into the once storied program. Shying away from the slowed down game that former Beaver head coach Ritchie McKay preached, John let his players use their athleticism to push the ball.

As a result Beaver Believers across the nation tuned into the exciting men in black. OSU stayed with most of their Pac-10 opponents until halftime, but the Beavers’ bench was too thin and the Beavers could not keep up with perennial Pac-10 powers Arizona, Stanford, UCLA and Oregon.

This year the Beavers face a lack experience and have yet to establish a man in the middle. Consequently Oregon State will try and use their youthful legs to get an early jump on the teams, it remains to be seen if the unproven bench will be able to hold leads against seasoned Pac-10 squads.

The Players
After starting all 28 games last season sophomore Lamar Hurd (6-3, 174) returns as the Beavers floor manager. The Texas product did well his first season averaging a team high 33.4 minutes per game. He totaled 105 assists, the third highest total ever by a Beaver freshman, while earning honorable mention on the Pac-10’s All-Freshman Team.

Point guard Lamar Hurd will be a big part of the Beavers' offense this year.

The Beavers most experienced player did not shoot the ball much last year averaging just 6.4 points on 154 attempts. With one year under his belt he will look to score as he can breaks down the defense with his penetration. Hurd also loves to shoot from the elbow where he is almost automatic.

"He has all the skills you look for in a point guard," John said. "He can get teammates the ball in positions where they can be successful, he knows when to push the ball, he knows when to settle things down and run the offense, and he is aware of the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates. I've been around a number of very good point guards in my coaching career, and Lamar certainly has a chance to be among the very best."

Joining him in the backcourt is junior J.S. Nash (6-1, 189) and sophomore Chris Stephens (6-1, 173). Nash returns after a difficult sophomore season where he struggled to find his touch from the outside. He primarily came off the bench last year, but has played in 55 games during his time at OSU.

In 27 games last year, Nash averaged 5.5 points and 2.8 rebounds. He hit only 8 of 41 three pointers, but he can be deadly if he finds his stroke. The California native sometimes has a hard time holding onto the ball, but is one of the best on the team at driving to the hoop.

"J.S. will help this team in terms of his experience," John said. "He never seemed to get in rhythm with his shot last season, but I look for him to have a breakout year as a junior. He is suddenly a veteran on this club and that is a role he can handle."

Splitting time with Nash is Stephens who offers a different look for the opposition. Stephens is one of the better shooters on the team and is deadly from behind the arc, but streaky. He hit 9 of 15 three pointers over a five game stretch last year, including 5 of 6 against USC, before cooling off. The Oregonian is undersized against most off guards, but is a hard working defender.

J.S. Nash is one of the more experienced members on the team.

"Chris wore down at the end of last year, and that is not uncommon for a true freshman," John said. "What I like about Chris is his calm demeanor on the floor. He possesses all the skills to hit a big shot in a tough situation. He has a tremendous future in this program."

Backing up the three more experienced players is junior Vic Remmers (6-4, 186) who received a scholarship in October, true freshman Angelo Tsagarakis (6-3, 183), and transfer Jason Fontenet (5-10, 155).

Remmers played in 11 games, mostly in mop up time, but should see more time this year as the Beavers will rely on him to hit the outside shot. He has a smooth release and could be a factor this year.

Sharp shooting true freshman Tsagarakis should see immediate playing time as he has unlimited range from the outside. "Angelo is an individual who improves our perimeter shooting immediately," John said. "His shooting range will force opponents to respect our perimeter game, something we did not have last year.”

Fontenet, a transfer from New Mexico State, will only be available for practices this season. Despite Fontenet’s absence on the hardwood during competition his experience and leadership will invaluable on the sideline and throughout practices. “Jason will be an excellent addition in practice to help our younger players experience the pace of the game at this level,” John said.

The wing position features three players who have not played a minute in an Oregon State uniform, but have the potential to be impact players. Junior Jim Hanchett (6-5, 230) joins the men in black after transferring from Utah Valley State College. True freshman Kenny Hooks (6-7, 195) is a versatile player who will get a chance to contribute right off the bat. Redshirt freshman Michael Johnson (6-4, 212) is coming off a year in which he worked on his game and conditioning.

"This program will benefit immensely from the addition of these individuals," John said. "Hanchett and Hooks are very complete players and are among the top athletic forwards at OSU in several years, while Johnson has worked diligently on his game and should be a much improved player."

Forward David Lucas will be looking to earn All-Pac-10 honors this season.

The other wing position will filled by junior David Lucas (6-7, 210) with freshman Kyle Jeffers (6-8, 215) trying to get in the lineup. Lucas returns after having a superb second half of the season. Over the first 10 games of the schedule he played a total of three minutes. The next 18 games he averaged 16.5 minutes on route to 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. The son of former Portland Trailblazer power forward Maurice Lucas has a sweet baby hook around the basket and has a nose for the ball.

"David seized an opportunity and has developed into a very good player," John said. "He has all the makings of an excellent power forward, and as he continues to get stronger will become more of a force."

Jeffers comes from Montgomery High in Santa Rosa where he earned North Bay League first team honors while being named the league’s MVP. He averaged 19.3 points and 14.5 rebounds as a senior. “Kyle is a terrific athlete who gives this team versatility inside.”

The most exposed position on the 2003 squad is the center where three players will try and fill the void left by former All-Pac-10 player Philip Ricci. "We can't totally replace what Brian and Philip contributed to this program, but hopefully as a group we can recoup some of the production," John added. "We have potential in the paint, but we need individuals to step up and make sizeable contributions."

Junior Derek Potter (6-11, 249), sophomore Kevin Field (6-10, 268), and freshman Liam Hughes (7-2, 275) are the three candidates vying for time on the hardwood. Potter played in 23 games last year averaging 7.1 minutes per game while grabbing 1.6 rebounds per game. He possesses a great work ethic and has the height to alter shots in the lane. Field also played sparingly getting in 20 games and attempting only five shots.

Center Liam Hughes (in white) is the ninth seven footer in OSU basketball history.

"Derek and Kevin have shown the coaching staff potential in a lot of ways, but they need to be more consistent - and that will likely happen as they continue to see more playing time," John said.

Seven footer Hughes, the ninth seven footer in OSU b-ball history, gives the Beavers immediate size in the middle and should improve as the season progresses. "Liam has tremendous potential and I'm anxious to see his development in the coming months," John said.

"I'm very excited about this team. This could be a team that we look back at in a couple seasons and realize this was the group who helped this program back to its rightful place among the conference's elite. We have a solid group of outstanding players; but, just as important, individuals who are serious about their academics and being good citizens."

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