Oregon St. head basketball coach Craig Robinson bought lunch today, and invited everyone who was around in to watch practice, and take a look around the new basketball practice facility today.
Practice for the season began this week, and as we noted yesterday, the Beavers will be without Devon Collier for the 2 exhibitions, the first of which is on Tue. Oct. 29, against Corban University, and the season's first "counting" non-conference game, against Coppin St. on Sunday, Nov. 10, and much more impactful, Eric Moreland for the entire non-conference campaign, as well as the Pac-12 opening road trip to Colorado and Utah.
Collier and Moreland will be serving suspensions for violation of team rules.
Both were on hand today, as they are "allowed" ("required" by Coach Robinson) to do all the work, participating in practices and meetings, just not get to play.
Once drills without defenders that are intended to teach positioning and patterns especially to the new-comers were completed, and 5 on 5 rotations began, it quickly becomes apparent that even against a non-conference schedule that outside of the trip to play Maryland and the Diamond Head Classic is about as inert has ever been encountered in the history of the program, this team will miss Moreland.
Collier will be a factor in the offense, but is bound to draw if not double teams, at least drop-off second defenders in Moreland's absence. Collier will also have to be a rebounding force on both ends of the floor.
Expect a window to routinely be left open at Gill for games this year too, as Olaf Schaftenaar will again be launching the occasional 3 pointer from the parking lot.
The Oregon St. coaching staff is understandably and as expected being very careful with Angus Brandt, who is recovering from a torn ACL that sidelined him almost all of last season. Brandt looks ok at 3/4 speed, but still appeared very tentative, or at least cautious, about going full tilt, be it going up high and hard for a rebound, running the floor, or catching and shooting.
He has a month and a half to work through that though before action starts, and as Robinson noted to the on-lookers, it will be interesting to take note of how things looked today, and contrast that with how the team looks in about a month and a half.
The eye-catching performer of the day has to be freshman guard Hallice Cook, who looks to already be several pages ahead in the play book. Cook looks the part of a Pac-12 point guard, and barring a set-back of some sort, should see the regular rotation sooner than later.
Robinson was both quick and happy to point out on a couple of occasions "and he's a freshman" after Cook turned in head-turning plays.
Figuring out a rotation opposite Nelson among Challe Barton, Langston Morris-Walker, and Cook, and also how that figures into how Victor Robbins fits into the plan will be high on Robinson's to do list over that month and a half, and at this point, its not at all clear what the end result will look like in that regard.
Jarmal Reid sat out most of the day's drills, apparently with some aches and pains, not something more serious.
It was also my first chance to see 7'0" freshman Cheikh N'diaye in action, and you can see the future in the athletic post player, but its definitely a long gaze over the horizon. If Moreland were in it for the entire season, it would probably be a no-brainer to red-shirt N'diaye, but circumstances might change that. A year's seasoning that doesn't consume any eligibility would likely be a better use of time, though.
Looking around the new facility, one's first thought tends to be "Too bad we couldn't just add some seats and play the games there, and relegate Gill to be the practice court." It's really that nice, and light, airy, and modern. So much so that women's head coach Scot Rueck seemed to enjoy just working there so much that even though his staff and players were occupied elsewhere, he opted for a working lunch in a building I wouldn't want to leave either.
It's an obviously great new tool for Robinson and Rueck when it comes to recruiting, the necessary first step to the long elusive goal for both programs of the NCAA tournament.