Oregon State Week: Running Down The ReturneesPosted by Connor Pelton on August 23rd, 2012
Six significant Beavers return for Craig Robinson this season, a group that will be called upon to quickly meld with four freshmen and a newly eligible transfer. Below we’ll break down those returnees in order of their per-game scoring averages last season.
Devon Collier, Junior, Forward (13.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG) – Collier graduated from starting all but seven games as a freshman to all but just three as a sophomore. His scoring totals nearly doubled in 2011-12, going from 7.0 PPG to 13.1 PPG. He was by far the team’s best scoring option in the post, and at times when Jared Cunningham couldn’t find his jumper, the best option, period. The next step on the road to becoming an all-conference performer is to finish more of his opportunities off the glass. That should come as he makes the transition to an upperclassman, and he already showed some improvement in the Beavers first European Tour game, going six-for-six from the field against Saint Charles Basketball Club. If he can continue anywhere near that kind of production, he has a solid passer in Ahmad Starks to get him the ball on the block. Collier can also run the court and is a great dump-off option in transition. On the other end of the court, Collier’s defense will be just as important to Oregon State’s success this season. The combination of Eric Moreland and Collier’s long wingspans made it nearly impossible for opponents to have any success in the lane, with Devon himself having one four-block game and three three-block outings.
Ahmad Starks, Junior, Point Guard (12.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG) – Along with Collier, Starks is the only other player from Robinson’s 2010 freshman class still with the team. Starks is a shoot-first point guard, the best of his kind in the Pac-12. Despite only standing a generous 5’9″, he is able to get up and make shots consistently with his unique fadeaway jumper. Starks was the main reason for Oregon State’s late success in 2011-12, as the Beavers went 6-2 in their final eight games. With Cunningham struggling to put down his three-point shot, Starks averaged 11.3 PPG in the seven games he played during that stretch. Not surprisingly, Oregon State’s two losses came in games where Starks scored only four points or sat out. The guard is at his best when he catches the ball on a wing or is able to create separation by stopping on a dime, pulling up, fading away, and shooting. More of this, and less of the jacking up random shots outside of the offensive flow, will result for more offensive production for both Starks and the Beavers.
Roberto Nelson, Junior, Shooting Guard (9.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG) – Plain and simple, Nelson needs to step up this year. The highly touted shooting guard out of Santa Barbara has been fine watching and learning behind Cunningham, but he has no choice but to become the go-to guy when the Beavers need points down the stretch this year. Depending on the play or foul situation of Cunningham and Starks, Nelson’s role and minutes have been undefined in his two seasons in Corvallis. Sometimes they’d need him to get the Beavers out of a shooting slump, or sometimes driving into the lane and either dishing off or putting up a floater would be the key. Whatever it was, Nelson was surely capable of both, but often times he couldn’t perform the necessary task on the night he was asked to do it. Sure, he’s had some big games – 21 points against Illinois-Chicago, 20 the next game against Howard. But only once in his career has he gone for 20+ against a Pac-12 opponent, and that was when he played all 40 minutes because Cunningham, Starks, Collier, Calvin Haynes, Lathen Wallace, Chris Brown, and Daniel Deane were all suspended for missing curfew. Starks is too streaky to be consistently counted on to win a game. The man they’ve turned to the last two years is gone. Without a doubt, the play of Nelson, especially in the final 10 minutes of games, will make or break the 2012-13 year for Oregon State.
Angus Brandt, Senior, Forward/Center (9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG. 1.1 APG. 0.4 SPG) – Brandt is one of the softer centers to come through Corvallis, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a big plus for Oregon State’s offense. With the combination of Joe Burton, Collier, and Moreland filling up space down low, Brandt is able to hang out in the corner and torch opponents from beyond the arc. He usually gets two looks a game (which he’ll hit) before defenders realize they need to get out on this 6’10” shooting center that can stroke it. Some nice, but not necessary, improvements to his game would to be more assertive and aggressive on defense. You can’t coach speed, so we won’t worry about that, but if Brandt can do a better job of taking away chances inside, he could have a very special senior season.
Joe Burton, Senior, Forward/Center (8.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.8 APG) – You didn’t really notice it until it was gone, but as Burton’s production went, so did the wins. More of a true forward/center, Burton would be good for a quiet 11 or 12 points a night. However, once February hit, the junior lost his touch around the hoop and defenders were able to key in on Collier down low. Burton averaged 3.3 PPG in the month of February (a stretch in which Oregon State went 1-5), including back-to-back scoreless nights at home against the Washington schools. Robinson’s confidence in the big man began to drop, as did the minutes, and Burton began to play tentatively once he did get on the court. All of the sudden, however, March came and Burton went back to the basics that made him a reliable scorer earlier in the year. Joe averaged 14 PPG in the Beavers final five contests before CBI competition started, making him the go-to guy in the post as the Beavers played their way into the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. Despite his offensive struggles at times, Burton always remained a great passer. Not often do you see a big man tied atop the team assist averages, but his ability to throw sharp, tight bounce passes from the top of the arc made him a dangerous weapon even if he couldn’t score the ball.
Eric Moreland, Sophomore, Forward (5.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.9 BPG) – For the majority of the season, Moreland had zero touch around the hoop. And that’s okay because of his tremendous rebounding and shot-blocking ability. On a team that averaged just above zero defensive rebounds per game (I haven’t fact-checked that stat, but I can’t imagine it’s not true), Moreland was the lone bright spot. With his long arms and good springs, he had 11 games in which he recorded double-digit rebounds. As his playing time increases, he’ll have a chance to lead the conference in rebounds this season.