Tres Tinkle of Oregon State: 'I've had a great time here'
If Tres Tinkle earns the Pac-12's Player of the Year award this season, his coach will get a double dose of pride.
That's because Wayne Tinkle serves a dual role as the 6-8 forward's coach and father.
Tres Tinkle is having an MVP-like season. Going into the Pac-12 tournament, the redshirt junior is averaging 20.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting .488 from the field, .331 from 3-point range and .777 from the free-throw line. He has scored in double figures in a nation-leading 64 straight games.
"You look at his stats and all that he does, nobody in the country is doing what he is doing," Coach Tinkle says. "It's been so much fun to see Tres accomplish all that he has first-hand, especially with what he's been through. He has made me extremely proud, and he's not done."
Tres — one of 10 finalists for the Julius Erving Award as the nation's top small forward — is keeping in perspective what a conference Player of the Year award would mean.
"That would be special, an accolade that looks nice on the resume," the junior Tinkle says. "I've always tried to keep a positive mind-set. But my main goal is to win as many games as we can and to extend the season as long as possible."
Going into Thursday's 2:30 p.m. PT Pac-12 quarterfinal against Colorado or California, Tinkle has moved up the school career lists to No. 7 in scoring and No. 10 in rebounds.
If he returns for his senior season, he could challenge Gary Payton's scoring record and could move into second place in the rebound list, securing his place alongside Payton and Mel Counts as the greatest players in Oregon State history.
Tinkle turns 23 in June, however, and will graduate this term with a degree in communications. It's possible he'll choose to turn pro after this season. For now, he says, he is concentrating on "being a Beaver."
Tres Tinkle spent most of his childhood living in Missoula, Montana, as his father served first as assistant coach, then as head coach of the Montana Grizzlies. Wayne Tinkle got the Oregon State job after Tres' junior year, and he completed his senior year in Missoula as Wayne began his career at OSU. Then Tres, who had plenty of other Division I offers, followed his father to Corvallis.
"It was something we talked about as I was growing up — the chance to play for your dad," Tres says. "That doesn't happen too often, especially at the Power Five level. I thought about playing for him at Montana, but when he came to Oregon State, it became more of a reality.
"It was perfect timing — seemed like fate. I had been recruited here (by the Craig Robinson staff), so it was all familiar. I liked the town, with a similar atmosphere to (Missoula). College town, good people. It made the decision easy."
Tres gets to live close not just to his parents, Wayne and Lisa, but also to his older sisters, Joslyn (who played at Stanford) and Elle (Gonzaga). Both have settled in the Portland area and are fixtures in courtside seats at all of their brother's games at Gill Coliseum.
"I love having all the family around," Tres says. "We all do our own thing, but the family is so close."
What's it been like playing for his father?
"It's been good," Tres says. "The last year and a half have been the best. My first year was tough — getting used to how he was as a coach with his son. He made it a point that he wasn't going to show favoritism with me. I wanted to make it a point to get into the gym and show I was the hardest worker."
"Early on, there were times when Tres wasn't quite sure how to react to the way I was coaching him," Wayne says. "I'd always coached him as he was growing up, but it was one-on-one, not in front of peers. There was an adjustment period the first couple of years, and maybe a little bit last year. He admitted he needed to toughen up, to realize it was coming from coach, not from dad.
"I was coaching him as hard as everybody else, but I wasn't praising him as much as the other guys. I tempered that because I didn't want anybody to think I was showing favoritism. That was a mistake on my part. If I'm going to get after him, I need to praise him when he does good. I've done a better job with that, and that's put him at ease."
Kerry Rupp, Tinkle's lead assistant who has worked with his boss since 2012 and has known Tres since high school, says both sides had to give.
"It's been great watching them grow as coach and player," Rupp says. "They've always had a great father/son relationship. They've had to work through it some, but now they are on the same page with the team, too. Tres has done a good job realizing what his dad is trying to do. It's been a really good success story, and fun for me to be a part of."
"The last two years, he has loosened up the reins a little bit and I've come to a little more of an understanding, too," Tres says of his father. "Those things come hand in hand. We're in a good spot. We're both of a competitive nature and want to win games. We're both in each other's corner. As I've gotten older and tougher and more mature, it's been all positive."
The sinewy southpaw has developed into a player with inside/outside skills and an ability to come through big late in a tight game. His father deserves some credit for that.
"I owe a lot to him," Tres says. "He thinks I can't take his coaching, that I take it personal. I don't think that's true. It's like any father/son relationship. When there's something critical involved, it's hard to take. "But my work ethic has developed from him — seeing what he's done for our family, how hard he's worked, where he started and where he's at now. He's always pushing me, making sure I don't stay complacent. He always puts winning first, and the rest will take care of itself. I've learned a lot through him.
"A lot of the (basketball) IQ and reads on the court, trying to be multi-dimensional as a player — that comes from him. He might not see that I've learned a lot from him, but he has challenged me so much. I stuck with it. I never folded. There were times when he thinks I'm not listening, but I am, and I'm the gym more than anyone, working on it."
The Tinkles have become a huge part of the Oregon State athletic family, which is an extension of their own family.
"Our family likes to spend as much time together as possible," Tres says. "We've been able to spend Christmases together. Having my sisters close is special. They're dedicated and very supportive. It's cool to have them down here, especially since I grew up always watching them. Now the roles have switched."
Wayne Tinkle was a standout player at Montana who played professionally in Europe for a decade. Lisa was one of the best players ever to wear a uniform for the Montana women's team.
"We all have a bond, coming to the gym and playing basketball, playing shooting games or pick-up," Tres says. "We know how getting to be together can be taken for granted, so we take advantage of it, whether it be trips to the coast or golfing or things like that. We're all each other's best friends."
During Tres' freshman year, he suffered a foot injury that caused him to miss the end of the season, including Oregon State's first visit to the NCAA Tournament since 1990. He then played only six games and redshirted in 2016-17 after suffering a broken right wrist. This season, Tres suffered a sprained ankle in a win at Oregon in early January that has left him at less than 100 percent, but he missed only one game.
"That showed a great deal of toughness right there," Rupp observes.
What has been the most fun part of Tres' time at Oregon State?
"So many things," he says. "We've had some great close victories that have been so much fun. Making the tournament my first year — even though I didn't get to play because of an injury — was very cool.
"Just being in the Corvallis community and having so many people on your side backing you up. ... when you walk around town, they know who you are. That shows that you're someone kids look up to. Those are things you don't get in a bigger city. The folks here love their Beaver sports. It's unique."
Tres and Stevie Thompson Jr. — son of Stevie Thompson Sr., an Oregon State assistant coach — came to OSU in the same recruiting class. They'll both leave among the top scorers in school history, in a select few with the likes of Payton, Steve Johnson and Counts.
"That's cool," Tres says. "I love Stevie. We're good friends and read each other well on the court. Those are some big-time names. It's a blessing to be mentioned with names like that — you can't help but smile. Hopefully, we can climb a little higher (on the list)."
Tinkle intends to put his name on the NBA draft early-entry candidate list, which will allow him to retain a financial advisor, attend pre-draft camps and work out for NBA teams. If he so decides, he'll be eligible to return for his senior season.
Tres' name is not mentioned as being taken in either of the two rounds of NBA mock drafts. That could change if he does well in workouts and impresses NBA scouts. He says he's not worried about that for now.
"I haven't put a ton of time (thinking) about it," Tres says. "I'll sit down with my dad after the season and find out whether or not he thinks I'm ready.
"For now, I'm trying to take one year at a time. I'd love to at least test the water, but I'm focused on winning as many games as we can and making some noise at the Pac-12 tournament."
Tres says the chance to play a final season with his father and further establish his name on Oregon State career lists will "absolutely" enter into his decision.
"There has been so much history here," he says. "I've had a great time here. It's nothing I'll want to leave. When you're around something so special, coming back is very tempting. You'll have a legacy here that people won't forget. That definitely plays a big role.
"I've talked to a lot of people. There's not a brotherhood quite like college basketball. Talking to Drew Eubanks (his ex-OSU teammate who left after his junior year and is now a rookie with the San Antonio Spurs), he says there's a lot of positives in the dynamics of college hoops and the camaraderie. I don't take those things for granted. My dad and the people I surround myself with every day here will have a huge part of my decision."
"We won't have that conversation until the season is over," Wayne says. "Tres deserves the opportunity work out for teams and garner feedback (on whether he should turn pro). My role is going to be as both father and coach. I had a good talk with (OSU athletic director) Scott Barnes about this. He said, 'You'll treat him just like every other player when that time comes. You have to.'
"If the feedback is positive, that Tres has a great chance of getting drafted to where he can get a guaranteed contact, then we'll take a look at it. But if the feedback says he's not quite there yet, then we'll know. It'll be very evident whether it's the right time."
When his playing days are over, Tres has interest in two professions — following his communications degree into broadcasting, or following his father into coaching.
"Both of those are in my plans," Tres says. "It would be hard to get away from basketball when I've given my life to it. You can come to work every day with a smile on your face. If you're not playing, it's the next best thing. You don't have to call (coaching) work, doing something you love and having the chance to impact a young person's life. Either one of those (professions), I'd love to do."