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Beaver senior encounters the college in college ball

Three years later, and Oregon State's Philip Ricci still can't believe it.

'I never pictured myself succeeding in college,' he says.

Succeeding in college, not on the basketball court. Ricci says academics were never his strength; it was the reason he went to Delta Junior College after starring at Galt High, just outside Sacramento, Calif.

'It was the toughest transition for me in basketball and school,' he says. 'Now I've got a year of playing and two years of school under my belt.'

Looking back, it might have been a blessing for Ricci to suffer a blown-out knee his first year in Corvallis. It allowed him to settle into classes and university life. The 6-7 senior has become one of the Pacific-10 Conference's top players, averaging 17.4 points and 8.8 rebounds and shooting 56 percent from the floor.

'Phil's a tremendous player,' teammate J.S. Nash says. 'Hard to stop that guy, even though he's undersized.'

'Let the game come to you' is what coaches tell players, and Ricci is the Beavers' shining example of how to do it. He doesn't throw up crazy shots, force shots or demand touches. He's unselfish and team-oriented. Then again, when he streaks down the middle of the court, teammates know where to find him.

'You know, that's how I scored all my points in junior college,' he muses, thrilled that OSU coach Jay John emphasizes the same fast-break mentality. 'We just get the ball and run, and I run down the middle. If I don't get the ball, I post up. Simple as that.'

Ricci had 12 points and 12 boards in Saturday's 20-point win over Washington, a game that showed just how far the Beavs have come under John. It was fast, furious and fun.

'I can't recall a game like that,' Ricci says.

Jackson's pain

OSU's Brian Jackson says he will play through the pain, with the basketball games numbered in his career. Jackson suffered an abdominal strain last year, and it resurfaced three weeks ago against Arizona. He was noticeably wincing at times Saturday.

'It does bother me a lot, but I can't worry about it,' the senior forward says. 'I don't have a lot of games left.'

Jackson takes cortisone shots before games, 'but it wears off.'

Says John: 'It can't get any worse. The thing to do is rest. But we can't keep Brian down. The only thing hard for him is offensively being able to get that big stride to get by somebody, or repeat jump.'

Ricci says his frontcourt mate 'is having a great time this year,' despite playing through the pain and going through all the hours of treatment. Jackson doesn't move as well, Ricci says.

'It's like he has cement on his feet,' Ricci says. 'But he's 6-9 and still one of the strongest guys in the league.'

Busy Beavs

John stretched his bench again Saturday, making regular substitutions with David Lucas, Kevin Field, J.S. Nash, Chris Stephens, Derek Potter and Vic Remmers during the contested part of the game.

'I'm kinda rolling the dice,' John says. 'But we've had a lot of periods (in games) where we've had lulls. Maybe we're not scoring because guys are tired.'

NOTES: Lewis & Clark improved to 10-7 overall and 5-3 in the Northwest Conference after sweeping Whitman (102-93) and league-leading Whitworth (78-76), both in overtime, last weekend. The Pioneers are rolling because they're getting consistent inside-outside play from 6-9 post Kristofer Speier, bulky 6-7 forward Colin Oriard and sharpshooting guard Danny Winchester. The Big Three combined for 65 points against Whitworth and 72 against Whitman Ñ or 76 percent of the Pioneers' points. É The three local Cascade Conference schools are battling for playoff position. Cascade (16-6) and Concordia (13-7) are tied for second at 6-4 in league behind unbeaten Oregon Tech, with Warner Pacific (15-8) at 5-5. Cascade beat Warner Pacific 69-61 last week. É The grisly details from Portland State's 75-51 loss at Eastern Washington: The Viks fell behind 25-2, turned the ball over 13 times in the first half (24 in the game), made only 6 of 18 first-half shots and had Seth Scott go scoreless in the first half.