Men's Basketball Aims for Winning Season

Oct. 18, 2001

Corvallis, Ore. - Expectations. Commitment. Attitude. Three words the Oregon State University men's basketball team has etched into their brains as the 2002 season approaches.

The expectations are the rebirth of the 10th-winningest program in Division I history. The commitment is to the system and team pillars of second-year head coach Ritchie McKay. The attitude is a positive outlook for a vastly different looking team.

'The program has a fresh look from a variety of standpoints,' McKay said. 'We have more depth, we have a better understanding of our system and style of play, and the coaching staff and veterans on our roster have a different level of expectations.'

Last year's expectations went from competing into late March, to improving every game, to having enough players to finish a contest. Postseason expectations are again on the agenda, and an attainable goal from what promises to be one of the more talented rosters in recent years in Corvallis.

'We have to shed the negativity that has grown around this program since the last winning season (1990),' McKay explained. 'The only way you accomplish that is a change of attitude on how you approach the season, and I'm encouraged by the commitment I have witnessed during spring workouts.'

At first glance the returning roster lists just five players, but that is deceiving. In reality eight individuals from last year's team return to the lineup including a senior and a junior.

'We should benefit from having had a potential All-Pac-10 big man (Philip Ricci) and an experienced point guard (Brandon Payton) practice all of last year,' McKay explained. 'We have more experience and maturity than would appear for someone outside the program.'

When you consider experience, three players come to mind - senior Adam Masten, and juniors Jimmie Haywood, and Brian Jackson.

Masten, a 6'5' guard, is the only three-year letterman in the program. The crafty left-hander averaged 8.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in his best season as a Beaver. Masten also shot .519 from the field and had a 1.84 assist-to-turnover ratio, fifth in the Pac-10 Conference. He was one of two Beavers to start every game.

'Adam has a newfound confidence that I hope will become infectious, but maybe the biggest quality he possesses is his intelligence,' McKay said. 'He is the type of player who is a natural leader, a trait that will be particularly important this year with our number of newcomers.'

The 6'2' Haywood is coming off a solid sophomore season, and by the end of the year was one of the most improved individuals in the conference. Haywood averaged 13.0 points over the final nine games and shot .506 from the field, including .441 from three-point range. The Seattle native noticeably grasped McKay's philosophies during the last half of the season, and was arguably the team's MVP in February and March.

'Jimmie is our best creator on the floor,' McKay said. 'He has the athletic ability to get to the rim and make the tough shot, or back out and hit a key perimeter hoop. He played extremely well down the stretch once he accepted our role and style.'

Jackson is looking to rebound from a sub-par sophomore season, in which he was bothered by injuries and foul problems. The forward still managed to average 9.7 points and 4.2 rebounds for the season. Jackson has worked hard in the offseason on weights and conditioning, and appears ready for breakout year.

'Brian has the talent to be a force in this conference,' McKay said. 'He understands more about the game than he did at this time last year, and we will be depending on him to make ever bigger contributions this season. People will notice a more athletic player in Brian Jackson this year.'

Junior guard Mike Cokley and sophomore forward Chris Manker complete the list of returning letterwinners. Cokley started 12 of 28 games he appeared in, and Manker played in 21 contests while battling a stress reaction injury in his left leg.

'Mike competes as hard as any player I have ever had in a program, and he has a desire to succeed,' McKay said. 'Chris has a bright future, but he needs to continue to develop physically and become more of a force this season.'

Three players sat on the bench as redshirts last year, and all three are expected to help this program make big strides. Senior Brandon Payton has three years of experience at UC Santa Barbara, junior Philip Ricci transferred to OSU from San Joaquin Delta Junior College at the conclusion of the 2000 season, and freshman Derek Potter was sidelined with a foot injury.

Payton, the half-brother to former OSU All-American and Player of the Year Gary Payton, brings confidence to the team. He has a wealth of experience at the Division I level and doesn't need time to adjust to the speed of the game, like many newcomers.

'Brandon exudes confidence, and is a vocal leader,' McKay said. 'He has improved his shooting immensely, and he is a strong ballhandler. His experience at this level will be a plus for our freshmen guards.'

Ricci, at 6'7' 250 pounds, demonstrated last year why he was one of the most coveted forwards on the West Coast leaving junior college. He redshirted last season after arthroscopic knee surgery early in the fall. If practice was any indication, he is the most athletic forward in the program in many seasons.

'Philip is a postseason honors caliber type player,' McKay said. 'He can shoot, get to the basket with strength, and is fierce on the defensive end. He is the best big man I have ever coached.'

Freshman center Derek Potter was an individual who was caught in the precarious situation of being the last player recruited by the previous coaching staff and sight unseen by the current coaching staff. In addition, the 6'11' Canadian missed most of last season with injuries. His offseason workouts impressed McKay and there appears to be a future for him.

'We could see potential in Derek the few times he did practice last season, but his health has been an issue,' McKay said. 'He runs the floor well and has a good sense of timing. I like what I have seen from Derek and believe he will work himself into a future starter.'

A foursome of newcomers will likely all play this season. The class has been ranked among the nation's elite, and includes sophomore junior college transfer Jarman Sample, and California freshmen J.S. Nash, Floyd North III, and Joe See.

Sample is a versatile player who should contribute at the forward positions. He averaged 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds as a freshman last season at Colby Community College in Kansas. The 6'7' 205-pound forward also shot 51 percent from the field.

'Jarman is another player who immediately increases our athleticism in the paint,' McKay said. 'Depth was such an issue for us last season that we didn't have a player like Jarman who, if he was not starting, could come off the bench and give us a lift.'

Proficiency at shooting is an aspect that McKay has always felt proud about his teams, unfortunately the 2001 Beavers were among the least productive units from the field in the conference. Nash could help that percentage climb, as he comes to the program with a reputation as a great shooter. Nash averaged 32 points as a senior and 28 as a junior at Rancho Verde High School. The Riverside County coaches named him the area's best shooter for three consecutive years.

'With just the addition of JS we have become a better shooting team,' McKay said. 'He is a tremendous scorer with a shooter's mentality. He will remind Beaver fans of former all-conference players Mark Radford and Ray Blume.'

North comes to Oregon State from St. Augustine High School, where he was one of San Diego's top all-time prep players. He led the program with averages of 23.6 points and 9.2 rebounds as a senior. North is the fifth all-time leading scorer in San Diego area basketball with 2,039 points.

'Floyd has all the tools to excel at this level,' McKay said. 'He is a terrific defender, explosive at getting to the rim, and an underrated shooter. He is an exceptional athlete.'

See is the point guard of the future. He was a two-time Bay Valley Conference Player of the Year and led De La Salle High School to the state title game twice, winning one championship. He averaged 18 points and shot 60 percent from the field as a senior.

'Joe may be one of the best players I have ever recruited, he reminds me of former Georgia Tech standout Mark Price,' McKay explained. 'He is very quick, and has excellent skills on both ends of the court.'

The few seasoned veterans and gifted newcomers will try to make coaches, fans, and themselves forget about last year's bizarre season. There were games when the Beavers had just seven available players, and the coaching staff was forced to workout with the team just to have enough individuals for practice. But, that was last year, and second-year head coach Ritchie McKay is anxious to have a full roster for an intriguing 2002.

'I have never seen anything like the setbacks this team experienced last season,' McKay said. 'The good news is we were able to keep our heads up and progress as a program, and our returning players persevered and have become stronger.'

With all of last year's injuries combined with a daunting road schedule, the staff has made an effort to play more games on friendly Ralph Miller Court in Gill Coliseum. The Beavers will make just two non-conference road trips out of state, to the Great Alaska Shootout and to Cal Poly.

'Our schedule needs to continue to grow in terms of competition, especially at home, and we are working toward that,' McKay explained. 'We need to get Gill Coliseum back into a frenzied atmosphere and a very difficult place for opponents to play.'

Boosting the schedule in 2002 and for the foreseeable future is the revamped Pacific-10 Conference Tournament. The eight-team field will converge on the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the league's first postseason event since 1990.

'I'm anxious to be a part of the tournament,' McKay said. 'The tournament gives everybody something to shoot for and should be a huge benefit for the conference as a whole.'

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