A dress rehearsal.

That’s how Oregon State men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson sees Sunday's 7:30 p.m. exhibition game against Lewis & Clark at Gill Coliseum.

Robinson won’t do much tinkering with the team during the game.

“We’re playing this game like it’s an ordinary game,” Robinson said. “So we want guys to execute, play hard on defense, play a normal game because in a week we’ll be starting for real.”

If the veterans are able to establish their game against the Pioneers, then Robinson will have extra leeway to get his four freshmen — Victor Robbins, Langston Morris-Walker, Jarmal Reid and Olaf Schaftenaar — plenty of playing time.

The Beavers had a jump start of sorts in August when they played games in Europe.

That enabled the veterans to get in some extra practice with three of the freshmen.

“I don’t know if I would call us far ahead, I would just say we’re ready to play games,” Robinson said. “We’re probably as ready to play games as we’ve ever been since I’ve been here.”

The Pioneers were 14-12 last season, 9-7 in the Northwest Conference.

They are led by two senior guards, 6-foot-6 Ross Erickson, who was second on the team with 12.8 points a game and 6-3 James Hollins, who led the Pioneers in scoring with a 15.5 average.

“These games just set the tone for the season and gives us a look on how the season’s going to be,” junior guard Roberto Nelson said. “We’re playing against a pretty good team so we’re just hoping that we get challenged pretty well and we come out and perform our best.”

It will be the first real test for the Beavers without Jared Cunningham, who was selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

Robinson said the older players are ready.

“I really think that every single one of the veteran players, the guys who played last year, because we lost Jared they all upped their games in anticipation of not having Jared around,” he said. “From Angus (Brandt) and Joe (Burton) all the way down to Challe Barton, they’ve all gotten better in anticipation of having to do more because Jared’s not here.”

Nelson said the team is showing quite a bit of chemistry already, but what might impress fans the most is that the Beavers are very athletic.

Even with Cunningham in the NBA.

“I think a lot of people kind of pushed us to the side and think that we don’t have the talent because we lost Jared, but I think we’re really athletic this year, just as athletic as last year, if not more,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be exciting for the fans to see how athletic we are.”

Kevin Hampton is sports reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9519 or kevin.hampton@lee.net.

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