Roberto Nelson is expected to step into a starting role for Oregon St. next season, and a trip to Europe this summer will afford an opportunity for the Beavers to smooth the transition. (Photo by Andy Wooldridge)
Oregon St.'s men's basketball team will be taking a trip to Europe this August 18th thru 28th, and will play several games against teams in Spain, and possibly southern France. The game schedule for the European trip is still being worked out, but head coach Craig Robinson said the Beavers will be facing some very good teams.
NCAA rules allow teams to take a preseason international trip once every four year, and 10 additional practice days are allowed in advance to prepare. With 4 new players now, and 2 players who did not play last year, red-shirt freshman Daniel Gomis and transfer Mike Moyer, and the need to adjust to life after Jared Cunningham, who left early for the NBA, the extra practice and game experience couldn't come at a better time.
"As far as our European trip goes, we wanted to do it in a year when we have a lot of incoming players," Robinson said. "The timing works out perfectly. We have 6 guys who are going to get some game experience from this trip, first and foremost. Secondly, with this trip in preparing for these games, you get 10 days of practice. So that's going to be real helpful for this group of newcomers."
Although the Beavers have 4 returning starters, plus forward Joe Burton who has been a starter at times, as well as a couple of others who have spot started, the adjustments to playing without Cunningham and expanding the role of Eric Moreland will still require some time to work through.
"I think that we are going to be looking for a lot out of Roberto Nelson," Robinson said. "He should move from 6th man to being a regular starter, even though he was playing starter's minutes last year. So he is going to be a big key. I also think Eric (Moreland) has to get into more of a leadership role on the court, and be playing more minutes. I think those two are going to be really important. I also think Challe Barton is going to surprise a lot of people. He's putting in a lot of good work here in the spring, and he's going to be pushing those upperclassmen for playing time."
Robinson has said the focus is more on everybody getting better than replacing Cunningham, noting the goal is to "absorb" his stats, rather than replace them. But replacing an all-conference first team player who was also a defensive all-conference first team selection is a job for everyone, and 3 weeks of extra work should jump start the process.
One player who won't be making the trip is sophomore Rhys Murphy. Murphy requested and has been granted his release from scholarship. Murphy, a psychology major, is reported as "exploring his options", but said he intends to graduate from Oregon St. The 6'7" forward from Sydney, Australia, averaged 5.1 minutes and 1.6 points in 18 games last season, after red-shirting in 2009-10.