Three days after Oregon State's NCAA tournament hopes ended last month with an opening-round Pac-12 tournament loss to rival Oregon, guard Hallice Cooke expressed frustration at the Beavers' place in the national pecking order.
"Smh I gotta know what that NCAA tourney feels like ASAP," he tweeted. "There's nothing more important than the NCAA tourney."
Perhaps that tweet helps explain to an extent why Cooke is reportedly leaving Oregon State after just one season in Corvallis. With leading scorers Roberto Nelson, Angus Brandt and Devon Collier graduating and fellow starter Eric Moreland unexpectedly turning pro a few weeks ago, the Beavers don't appear to have much hope of ending their 24-year NCAA tournament drought anytime soon.
Cooke's departure is especially damaging for Oregon State because he would have been the Beavers' best returning player next season as just a sophomore. As a freshman, the 6-foot-3 combo guard averaged 8.2 points and 2.6 assists and shot 45.6 percent from behind the arc, supplanting junior Challe Barton in the starting lineup early in Pac-12 play.
Losing all five starters from a team that finished 16-16 last season will make it even more difficult for Oregon State coach Craig Robinson to silence critics who have questioned why he still has his job. Robinson is the only power conference coach still in search of his first NCAA tournament berth despite entering the seventh year of his tenure.
Hired to resuscitate a program that went winless in Pac-12 play the year before he arrived, Robinson initially improved the talent level at Oregon State but failed to parlay that into on-court success. The Beavers have yet to make an NCAA tournament or NIT appearance under Robinson and have finished better than eighth in the Pac-12 only once in six years.
With most of the talent Robinson assembled now gone, Oregon State seems poised to battle with Arizona State and Washington State next season to avoid the Pac-12 cellar. The leading returning scorer for the Beavers is guard Langston Morris-Walker, who averaged a mere 4.0 points per game as a sophomore this past season.
Cooke could have at least eased the loss of the other four starters and given the Beavers a key player around which to build going forward. Instead he's bolting too, leaving Oregon State in an even worse position than expected.
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