On College Hoops
No holiday-travel headaches at OSU
Jay John isn't going anywhere as OSU coach. No, literally, John won't be leaving Corvallis until January, because the Beavers play an unusual nine consecutive games at Gill Coliseum. Up next are Bethune-Cookman on Saturday and Western Oregon on Monday.
The home stay got off to a decent start Saturday, as the Beavers (4-4) improved and played their best game to date. A senior-dominated Fresno State team rallied to win 74-69 - thanks, in part, to Josh Tarver's foul trouble - but John saw improvement.
'Our defense was better than we've been and, with that, our rebounding was better and we got transition baskets,' he says. 'Offensively, we got into better rhythm,' and then fell out of it with Tarver on the bench.
The redshirt freshman point guard from Jesuit High already is showing his value to the Beavs. 'No question about it,' John says. But Tarver needs to play better on the road. Of course, he doesn't need to worry about it for another month.
John's team will have its ups and downs, but he, among others, has to be patient.
Rebounding forward Kyle Jeffers is the only scholarship senior on the squad.
Portland's Michael Johnson, son of former Beaver and NBA star Steve Johnson, is playing about 10 minutes per game at forward as the team's other senior.
Junior standout Sasa Cuic is practicing and playing better after his two-game, team-related suspension -'I have no issues with Sasa right now,' John says.
Marcel Jones is averaging a team-leading 18 points a game.
Six freshmen dot the roster, including Tarver, who is averaging 11 points per game with 24 assists and 26 turnovers, and fellow redshirt freshman Calvin Hampton.
Tarver's brother, guard Seth Tarver, and two other true freshmen have seen action.
Jefferson High's Lathen Wallace will redshirt all season, John says.
The younger Tarver, a terrific 6-5 athlete, has been playing on the wing and struggling to shoot, predictably -he's at .391 from the field, including 0 of 3 from 3-point land.
'But he gives great effort,' John says.
Seth Tarver plays good defense, 'but he still hasn't seen everything,' John says. 'He gets caught on back cuts and has to figure out when to switch and when not to switch.'
So, John, who is in his fifth year, expresses patience with the Beavers, saying that he ramped up with transfers to compete in his first three years in Corvallis, and then with the administration's blessing started to build the roster with high school players.
'It's natural to expect things now,' he says. 'Those who watch us practice see flashes.'
What still doesn't sit well with John and the OSU faithful is last year's collapse under big expectations after the 2004-05 winning campaign. The Beavers fell to 13-18 with seniors Nick DeWitz, Chris Stephens, Jason Fontenet and Lamar Hurd.
As the season and disappointment progressed, John got more testy, although the Beavers finished by beating Oregon and then winning one game in the Pac-10 tournament.
If John had known Hurd would miss as much time as he did with a groin injury, he would have brought Josh Tarver out of his redshirt year.
'From what we had seen in practice, it was very difficult not to play Josh, anyway,' John says.