Production and consistency from the bench are areas the Oregon State men’s basketball team continues to seek as the calendar has turned to February.
Coach Wayne Tinkle and his staff have juggled which reserves are playing because none have provided what the team needs and is looking for on both ends of the floor on a regular basis.
The Beavers (11-11, 3-7) head into Thursday’s home Pac-12 game with Washington State (9-13, 1-9) still leaning heavily on those who begin the game on the floor.
With limited production from the bench, OSU has been pushed to stick with the starters, four of whom are averaging more than 31 minutes in Pac-12 play.
“We’re going with different guys,” Tinkle said of his effort in getting more from those in reserve. “If some guys aren’t able to give us a boost, we’ve tried other guys to try to get that bench fired up.”
Freshman forward Alfred Hollins has come the closest to doing what is asked, based simply on the number of minutes he’s played. He leads the bench players, averaging 13.1 minutes in conference play, during which he’s produced 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.
Still, even his time has lagged. He averaged 15.1 minutes in the first seven Pac-12 games but only a combined 25 in the last three.
Freshman guard Zach Reichle has played at least seven minutes in the last four games and in seven of 10 Pac-12 contests.
Junior center Gligorije Rakocevic, part of the team’s small group of big men, has seen his playing time increase since missing four games with a calf injury.
He’s reached double-digit minutes in four of the last five contests and is averaging 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.3 minutes in conference.
“He tries to get the best out of us every single time and he wants us to be ready,” Rakocevic said of Tinkle. “When we get in we need to produce something.”
The minutes of three other reserves — guards Kendal Manuel and Ronnie Stacy and forward Ben Kone — have fluctuated dramatically, particularly in conference play.
Rakocevic said he’s tried to be a mentor for the two freshman reserves, Hollins and Reichle, and shared his own experiences as a first-year player trying to gain confidence and playing time while learning a new system and adjusting to a higher level of expectations.
There’s also a message that building minutes starts at the defensive end.
“When you make a good defensive play, you feel like you’re going to stay in the game,” Rakocevic said.
Tinkle said many players believe that it’s offensively where they primarily need to make an impact. That’s not the case.
The coach pointed to Reichle’s defensive efforts last Saturday at California, getting deflections that led to transition points. Reichle didn’t score but had two rebounds and two assists in 10 minutes against the Golden Bears.
“So we’ve got to flip their mindset a little bit where … let’s get the stops defensively and be really solid, and then the offense, I think, will come,” Tinkle said. “That will help free their minds up a little bit.”
The coaching staff had individual meetings with players earlier this week to clarify exactly what is needed from those coming off the bench.
Sophomore forward Tres Tinkle has seen the coaches push the reserves every day, trying to get the best out of them. He said the coaches do a good job of not giving up on players, instilling confidence and reminding them to not be afraid to make a mistake.
As a teammate and veteran, Tinkle has told the freshmen not to be hard on themselves and to continue to bring energy because of the impact they can have on the team.
“Telling them, ‘hey, stay in it,’” added senior forward Seth Berger. “I know how it is when you are a young guy and not getting in. Trying to have a positive attitude, because you never know when your opportunity is going to come.”