Jared Cunningham has moved on.
Cunningham decided to forgoe his senior season with the Oregon State men’s basketball program and take the step to the next level with the Dallas Mavericks, taking his team-leading 17.9 points a game, 199 made free throws and 91 steals.
For some teams, the hole might be too big to fill.
The Beavers are taking the situation as another step forward in building a top program.
With starters back at four spots and plenty of depth, the Beavers have reason for optimism as practice began Friday for the 2012-2013 season.
Even some confidence.
“We’re still really, really athletic, we’re still trying to push the ball, we’re still going to be a man-to-man team,” OSU sophomore forward Eric Moreland said. “Obviously, we did lose a big piece, but we still have a lot of key pieces. We do miss Jared, but at the same time we’re very good. Probably one of the best teams we’ve had. So we’re looking forward to the season.”
Senior center Angus Brandt started 35 games last season, junior guard Ahmad Starks had 35, junior forward Devon Collier started 33, senior forward Joe Burton started 21, Moreland had 17 and sophomore guard Challe Barton started twice.
Roberto Nelson did not start a game at guard but he played in all 36, averaged 20.8 minutes and scored 9.3 points.
Nelson will be expected to step in for Cunningham.
“Jared did a lot for us, offensively and defensively and being a leader out there,” Nelson said. “So it’s going to be tough to step up into that role but I think I’m more than capable of doing it and we have a great team and we have a great supporting cast and the coaches are doing a great job of making sure everybody’s in the right spots and not trying to do too much. So I think it’ll be just fine.”
Coach Craig Robinson said Nelson is prepared to make that step.
It was a statement Robinson wasn’t ready to make before the offseason.
Nelson has matured and become more open to learning from the coaches.
Robinson described Nelson as the type of athlete that is better than just about everyone at almost everything.
“He’s is the best at everything he does, so he’s a hard guy to coach,” Robinson said. “He has finally given himself over.
As a player, Nelson has the potential to break out.
He won’t fill the highlight reels but he can shoot the ball from any spot on the court.
“He can score in bunches,” Robinson said.
The Beavers should be solid up front with Brandt, who had a strong sweep through Europe with the team this summer, Burton and Collier.
Collier has continued to work on his mid-range jumper and Burton brings a deft touch as a shooter and passer.
Moreland had immediate impact last season as a shot blocker and defender.
He finished with 69 blocks and 6.8 rebounds. He spent the summer working on shot selection and learning how to play under control.
“I needed that first year to see what I needed to change and get used to the college speed and rotations and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s not like high school or AAU season. So I feel I got that. I’ll definitely try to be under more control this year.”
Joining them will be 6-10 sophomore Daniel Gomis, who sat last season to mend a broken leg, and 6-9 freshman Olaf Schaftenaar, brother of former OSU star Roeland Schaftenaar.
Robinson brought in a lot of mid-range size in freshmen Victor Robbins (6-6), Jarmal Reid (6-7) and Langston Morris-Walker (6-5).
“They’re catching on to everything really fast,” Nelson said. “Langston’s really good. He plays really good defense and does a lot for us. Vic does a lot for us.
“Olaf is a great shooter, Jarmal is a banger and does everything for us. We have a lot of pieces to our team now.”