CORVALLIS, Ore. – Tres Tinkle likes to find the positives in just about anything.
The former Missoula Hellgate basketball star and current Oregon State standout could look back at the Beavers’ 5-27 record last season and be frustrated.
He could reflect on his injury history – including a broken foot his freshman season at OSU and a broken wrist last year – and be disappointed.
But that’s not how Tinkle thinks.
“Everything kind of happens for a reason,” said the former Montana Gatorade player of the year. “We’ll just be better from it and people just gained more experience.”
“What I would take away from it, I think I matured as a player, learned more through the coaches’ eyes and understand why they get so frustrated at times,” Tinkle added. “This is probably the first time I could work on, really focus on my legs getting stronger since my senior year of high school. I feel like I got a lot more athletic and explosive, so a bunch of positives came out of (last year’s injury).”
Injuries have been a big storyline in Tinkle’s college career, but he’s now 100 percent healthy and ready for a second shot at his sophomore season. Tinkle was granted a medical hardship by the Pac-12 Conference after appearing in just six games last season.
But he was dominant in those games he did play, averaging 20.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.2 steals and 0.8 blocked shots. He earned the conference’s player of the week award after averaging 23.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in the Beavers’ season-opening wins over Prairie View A&M and the University of Texas San Antonio.
Back healthy, Tinkle started to rediscover that groove this summer in Spain, where OSU played four games against overmatched opponents. Tinkle averaged 18.5 points on 52 percent shooting, leading the Beavers in scoring every game. He also grabbed eight rebounds per game and totaled 13 steals, including eight in one game.
“It was fun, for sure, obviously. More than happy to be on the court again. Obviously it was something I missed and obviously is something I love,” Tinkle said. “It took a little bit of time. … I was a little rusty just for not playing a real basketball game in nine months or however long it was. It was nice to get back out there and get a little more feel and kind of have a little advantage when we start preseason and conference.”
“It was great to have Tres back out there,” said Wayne Tinkle, OSU’s third-year coach and Tres’ father. “We all know what he brings to the team with his level of toughness, competitiveness, leadership, and that’s what he did. He got to the free throw line, ran the floor, defended.”
The elder Tinkle admitted that some of his players struggled to focus entirely on basketball during the trip, and rightfully so. The Beavers’ hotel was located near Barcelona’s La Rambla, where a driver killed and injured pedestrians by deliberately driving his van into a crowd of people on Aug. 17.
Nobody from OSU’s traveling party was injured, but the team witnessed the devastating aftermath from their hotel rooms.
“We were pretty shaken up at first. It’s one of those things that you see on TV, and you’re like, ‘Dang, that’s scary,’” Tres Tinkle recalled. “It just shows how you can’t really take anything for granted, because it can happen anywhere at any time. It’s just kind of a reality check and puts life in perspective.”
The Beavers returned stateside after their Aug. 25 win and had about two weeks off before diving back into their daily routine. The team reconvened Sept. 15 to start getting some workouts in, though they’re limited to two hours of organized practice time per week.
For Tres Tinkle, that meant more work on his individual game, specifically the pace he plays.
“I think at times in the past, I was either catch and shoot or I was going to catch and try to get to the hoop. I like to get to the hoop, because I know I can get fouled a lot and get contact, but there need to be times where I can slow down and get the defense off guard to shift,” he said, adding that he’s “taken thousands and thousands of shots since I’ve been healthy. Being a more consistent shooter, shooting at a high clip, being more elusive and being able to change my speed and making me harder to guard (are things Tinkle’s been working on this offseason).”
Coach Wayne Tinkle and Oregon State will hold their first official practice of the season on Oct. 4. The Beavers’ first game is an exhibition contest against Pacific on Nov. 3 with the official season opener scheduled for Nov. 10 against Southern Utah.
“We had the pieces last year; we were just young and inexperienced,” Tres Tinkle said. “But this year we have everybody back, everyone’s gotten better, we have a great freshman class now. We’ve gotten closer, and our chemistry is better than it’s been before. You hate to make a judgment before the season, but I truly believe that if all things go well, we’ll be able to not just make a little bound, but I think we could make a very significant bound in the Pac-12 and really make a name for ourselves.”
If that happens, Tinkle won’t have to look far for any positives.