From the get go, it was clear that Oregon State’s 2013 men’s basketball recruiting class lacked star power. After some strong classes to start his tenure, Craig Robinson’s uncertain future at OSU appeared to be slowing progress on the recruiting trail.
But if you put on your orange-colored glasses and squinted, wasn’t there maybe something special there in 2013? If you looked at it just so, wasn’t it possible that you weren’t really getting a raw big man with rudimentary offensive skills, but rather a cat quick seven-footer from Senegal primed and ready to be a defensive enforcer?
And maybe that point guard who’d been cutting his teeth against the lesser competition of the Canadian prep circuit was hiding good instincts and quick hands in his 6-3 frame?
And that undersized-but-more-athletic-than-he-looks shooting guard—well—isn’t that just about how you’d describe Steph Curry a few years back, before he broke big?
Sure. Hope springs eternal.
Four years have passed, and with the 2013 class completing its run at Oregon State, it’s time to review its legacy.
The 2017 men’s basketball season can’t but have tasted bitter to Oregon State fans after the success of the 2016 edition. We don’t need to review it in minute detail, but for a season to end up as far off the rails as this one did, many things must go wrong. And many things did, including the failure of each member of that 2013 class—for different reasons—to develop into reliable contributors by the end of their careers in Corvallis.
The three players comprising it should all have been entering their fourth year in a Beaver uniform this season. Under normal circumstances, each might’ve been expected to shoulder a heavy load, and each had some definite strengths.
So, what went wrong?
Without further ado, your 2013 Oregon State basketball recruits:
7-0 230 lbs
In no sport is the ‘project’ player more a part of the lexicon than in basketball and no position yields—anecdotally—more projects than center.
Although Cheikh N’diaye certainly qualified as a project, he was not completely unheralded coming out of high school. ESPN rated him as a two-star recruit, and Rivals awarded him three stars. At least one recruiting analyst remarked on his “incredible upside” and described him as “a terrific rebounder and…an impact player on defense”.
N’diaye struggled to live up to this praise. It is impossible to say if a redshirt year would have changed the trajectory of his career, but what quickly became clear was that he was overmatched as a college freshman, despite his undeniable physical gifts.
The raw numbers don’t paint a grand picture of the four years N’diaye spent in a Beaver uniform. He averaged 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 6.5 minutes per game. Those numbers reflect a project who remained a project throughout his career, and who never made significant steps forward in developing his offensive repertoire.
Some of the blame must go to his coaches for not finding a way to help him develop, but when a player scores only 116 points over 80 games, his offensive ceiling becomes clear. For comparison, Gligorije Rakocevic—not exactly a volume shooter—attempted over 50% more field goals this year than N’diaye did over the course of his Oregon State career.
A dive into the murky waters of ‘advanced statistics’ yields a few interesting nuggets, though. N’diaye has the 12th-highest career block percentage of any player in the Pac-12 since 2009. The sample size is small enough to call the exact numbers into question, but he presented a real obstacle to opposing ball handlers driving to the hoop. Unfortunately, Cheikh couldn’t stay on the court, even when his play warranted it. He averaged, for his career, 7.1 fouls per 40 minutes.
Injuries, it should be said, also played a factor in limiting the big man, including during his senior season when he was lost after nine games in which he was displaying a modestly improved offensive skillset (averaging 3.6 points per game).
6-2 205 lbs
Malcolm Duvivier was the recruit who came closest to getting my pulse racing out of high school. He was the last recruit to join the class and he came, at least to me, completely out of left field. He was a Canadian prospect who Rivals rated as the 116th best player in the 2014 class, and he—wait, slow down. Did you say the 2014 class? Yep. Duvivier wasn’t expected to sign until the following year, but he joined the 2013 class at the last moment to sign with the Beavs.
Score one for the good guys.
Described as a streaky shooter with good instincts, Duvivier never quite panned out as an offensive force at the college level, managing only 38% shooting from the field in his career. Still, if there was an MVP from the 2013 class, Duvivier certainly earns that award. He had just enough good games (the upset of #7 Arizona, for example) to balance out the bad, and in his best year, 2014-2015, Duvivier averaged better than 10 points per game and ranked 9th in the conference in assists (but also 5th in turnovers, with a barely positive assist-to-turnover ratio).
His freshman year was a quiet one, as he averaged just 3.1 points and, shall we say, a modest handful of other counting stats. By his late in his sophomore year, however, Duvivier was beginning to figure things out. He closed out 2014-2015 with 17 or more points in four of his final five games, while hitting 41.6% of his threes over that stretch. This was much closer to the player I’d hoped we were getting. Looking forward to 2015-2016, it wasn’t hard to see Duvivier becoming a reliable second option to Gary Payton II while the touted incoming freshman class found its legs.
The reality was rather different. Although Duvivier was a steady hand on the 2016 NCAA Tournament team, his assist percentage and his usage rate were way down from the year before. Duvivier does gets credit for helping the talented trio of Tres Tinkle, Drew Eubanks, and Stephen Thompson Jr. acclimate quickly.
Unfortunately, Duvivier had to leave the program for personal reasons prior to the 2016-2017 season. Although his steady presence on the court would’ve been a boon to the team, life always comes before basketball. Malcolm has since graduated from Oregon State and will finish his basketball career at another school as a graduate transfer. We wish him nothing but the best, and thank him for his time as a Beaver!
6-3 185 lbs
Union City, NJ
The great “what-if” of the 2013 class, Cooke looked an unremarkable prospect out of high school. ESPN rated him as the 92nd-best shooting guard in the country, and his other top offers were from St. Josephs and Richmond. The best thing from a recruiting perspective, was that Hallice didn’t shy away from tough competition. His high school team, St. Anthony’s, was one of the best in the country—winning 83 straight games during Cooke’s time at the school—and his AAU team was ranked in the top 10 nationally. The number of other options on his teams partially explained his modest stats at the prep level and the relative dearth of scholarship offers he received.
Cooke produced 1.7 win shares in his sole season in Corvallis, which is about what Stephen Thompson Jr. managed in his first year. Cooke wasn’t a star—he didn’t even have a great freshman year, just a pretty good one—but he looked like he might become a star.
Because, you see, Hallice Cooke could shoot. And Hallice Cooke could get *hot*, draining multiple deep jumpers in quick succession.
Cooke didn’t score more than 9 points until his 12th game in a Beaver uniform, averaging 4.2 point over that span. Something seemed to click for him against Quinnipiac, as he dropped in 12 points over 19 solid minutes. He averaged 10 points per game the rest of the way, shooting 45% from deep. He saved his best for last, pouring in 23 points on 10/14 shooting in a CBI loss to Radford. Cooke’s future was bright. He was penciled in as a starter, and Oregon State’s probable top scorer for 2014-2015, and then the news broke that Cooke was leaving the program.
Eventually, Cooke settled on Iowa State, which initially seemed a perfect fit for his sweet shooting stroke. He never really caught on in Ames, however, and he eventually transferred again.
So, what’s the verdict on the 2013 recruiting class?
It’s not fair to lay the blame for the collapse of the 2016-2017 season squarely on one class of three players but only one of them remained in Orange and Black by the start of this year, and from him Oregon State got just 97 minutes and 32 points before injuries sent him to the pine.
You can debate the efficacy of Win Shares as a stat at the college level—the sample size is smallish, the competition and talent are wildly variable—but here’s an interesting fact:
The three players in that 2013 recruiting class contributed 2.8 wins (Duvivier), 1.7 wins (Cooke), and 0.8 wins (N’diaye). That adds up to 5.3 win shares over the course of their career. In 2017, the natural senior year of those three players, the OSU mens’s basketball team won…five games.
In short, the struggles of four years ago came home to roost in 2017.
But if this was a lost season, and if much-needed senior leadership was unavailable, the future looks bright. Tres Tinkle, Eubanks, McLoughlin, and the Brothers Thompson form a talented core that could surprise as early as next season.