New York City is full of landmarks and must-see places for tourists.
The Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building. The Brooklyn Bridge. Central Park.
For basketball players, one stands out: Madison Square Garden.
That’s where the Oregon State men’s basketball team will play today and Friday in the 2K Sports Classic.
Coach Craig Robinson said he might have to educate his players on the venue, but several seemed to already know about it.
“Definitely the opportunity to go play in Madison Square Garden is the big thing,” junior guard Ahmad Starks said. “They call it the mecca of basketball. It’s a great arena.”
Starks said his teammates will at least have a little knowledge of the arena, which has a history dating back to 1879.
Opened at its current location in 1968, MSG is the the home of the New York Knicks and St. John’s for basketball.
“Obviously, we won’t know all the history behind it but guys who’ve played basketball for this long, you know Madison Square Garden is probably the best play to play, the most historic arena, almost,” Starks said. “So you have all the former (Knicks) guys like Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, all those guys that played then and all that great stuff that went on.”
Robinson is also eager to make his return to MSG.
This will be the first time he’s been there as a head coach, although he played there for Princeton against Ohio State as a part of a doubleheader along with North Carolina and Rutgers. He also coached as an assistant with Northwestern in the venue.
“I’m really excited that we get a chance to do this for the guys’ sake but for my sake, too,” he said. “I’m looking forward to coaching in the Garden. I’ve never coached as a head coach in the Garden.”
The Beavers will meet Alabama today. Tipoff is 4 p.m. PDT.
Alabama is 2-0 with wins over South Dakota State (70-67) and West Alabama (80-49).
The Crimson Tide get the bulk of their scoring from the guards. Trevor Lacy averages 19 points, Rodney Cooper 16.5 and Trevor Releford 16.
Alabama does have size with 7-footer Moussa Gueye from Thies, Senegal (same hometown as Daniel Gomis) and 7-1 Carl Engstrom.
“They’ve got an explosive guard and some really big centers down low who are defensive,” senior center Angus Brandt said. “So they’re going to change some shots and make it tough for us to get rebounds, but I think we’ve been focusing on boxing out and trying to do a better job of that.”
Robinson said this tournament will provide tougher competition for the Beavers than last year’s foray to New Jersey.
The Beavers will take on either Purdue or Villanova on Friday. Today’s winning teams play for the championship.
Participating in this sort of early-season tournament will also give OSU a taste of what to expect in the postseason.
“Obviously, the goal at the end of the year is to make the tournament, so playing against good competition and teams that probably are going to make the tournament at the end of the year is what you want to be doing because it puts you in a position to get quality wins and that’s what gets you into the tournament,” Brandt said. “So I’m excited and I think everyone is.”