CORVALLIS, Ore. – In front of a crowd of more than 300 people, the Oregon State men’s basketball team opened the 2013-14 season with its first official practice Wednesday afternoon at Gill Coliseum.
Head coach Craig Robinson wanted to give the public an early look at his roster and decided to hold the practice at Gill Coliseum instead of the new OSU Basketball Center to accommodate the crowd. They seemed to like what they saw, as Angus Brandt was back on the court after last year’s season-ending injury providing leadership to a mixture of veterans and newcomers.
Also back is Daniel Gomis, who has missed the past two seasons with an injury, and he was by far the happiest person at practice. “I’m just so thankful to be on the court,” he said.
The three freshmen proved they will push the veterans for playing time, as guards Hallice Cooke and Malcolm Duvivier practiced with a lot of energy and passion, and 7-footer Cheikh N’diaye blocked lots of shots while manning the middle.
Last season the Beavers started practicing on Aug. 2 to prepare for their European tour. In the past, the first official practice was held in mid-October, but the NCAA changed the rule to allow teams to begin practice in early October, so Wednesday’s practice was still earlier than normal.
Below are quotes from Robinson, new assistant coach Freddie Owens and some of the players about the first official practice:
Head coach Craig Robinson
On the first practice…
“It was really exciting to get it out of the way and get started. I think starting this early a lot of the things that I thought might happen happened. We are not in as good of a shape as we would be, but that’s okay. Being able to start this early has been great. I’m really happy with the upperclassmen and the way they were taking charge during practice. I’m very pleased with our younger guys. They showed a lot of poise out there, and I know they were tired.”
On the difference of this season compared to last year when the team went to Europe…
“This year we spent a lot of time together in the summer again, but it wasn’t away from home. We got to work out two hours a week with the guys, so that was good. But it sure was nice the year before to be able to play some games early and see what we really needed to work on. We are going to have to do that this year on our own with scrimmages and invite some refs in here to give us a real feel of the game.”
On the return of Angus Brandt from last year’s season-ending injury…
“I have to tell you having Angus Brandt back is a blessing and a godsend. We thought he would be gone, but to have him back working with this crew is going to make us even better. He’s probably ready to start mixing in with some contact, but we are going to keep him out until we get closer to the old start time, sort of the middle of October. Having his leadership, having his poise -- even when we are running through 5-on-0 -- he does a great job kind of telling the other guys what they should be doing and where they should go, it’s like having another coach.”
On opening the first practice to the public…
“I was surprised at the turnout. We had more than 300 people here. It’s good for them to connect with the guys early so they can see the progress they make by the time we get to game time. It’s also an opportunity for people on campus to get a gander at the team. They usually can’t come and see us practice, because they are all working. We thought it would be a good idea to invite them for lunch and a little entertainment at our expense.”
Assistant coach Freddie Owens
“It was very exciting for me today. I’m learning a lot about the offense and how Coach Robinson likes to do things. It’s a learning experience for the players, but it’s a learning experience for me as well. I’m just basically trying to take what I’m learning and help the players the best way I can.”
Senior center Angus Brandt
“It feels good to be back out there again. It was good to run up and down with the team. It feels good. I’ve been sitting out a lot so to get out on the floor and run up and down and be a part of practice is a big deal for me.”
Sophomore forward Daniel Gomis
“It was great. I’m just so thankful to be on the court. I really thought I was done with basketball because of the injuries. I thought it was just a nightmare that would go on forever. Being able to practice, the first practice with the team for the first time in almost three years makes me so happy. I just can’t describe it. Now I made that first step. I have a lot to work on for this upcoming season to help my team and see what I can do to help them win. I’m just so happy.”
Sophomore forward Olaf Schaftenaar
“I think it was good and everyone was excited. The intensity was good. The freshmen did their job. They are smart and learned the offense fast. I think we have a good team this year.”
Sophomore guard/forward Victor Robbins
“It went good. I like how they let the fans in here today. I felt like the pace of practice was good and it will only get better from this point on. Last year at this time, I feel like we were going a little bit harder due to the Europe trip and stuff like that. But we are better this year. I feel like we have more people who want to play. So it was a good first practice.”
Freshman guard Hallice Cooke
“I think it went very well and I shot the ball well. As a team, we were communicating until we got tired. We need to work on communicating through fatigue and stuff. But I think we did a good job. Coach seemed satisfied, but we need to keep raising the bar each and every day and keep getting better as a team. We need to take bigger steps each and every day.”
Freshman guard Malcolm Duvivier
“I thought today was good. The intensity was good and everyone was getting after it. There are some little nitpick things we need to get together, but that will just come over time and repetition. I think the intensity was good today, and everybody is out here working hard. So I think that’s pretty good.”