by Bill DiFilippo / @bflip33
It’s been 24 years since Oregon State made it to the NCAA Tournament. Back then, in 1981, the team was dubbed “The Orange Express,” after they spent 25 weeks ranked No. 1 in the polls, and All-American Steve Johnson was their star.
If Roberto Nelson has anything to say about that, the Beavers will be returning to the Tournament this year.
Nelson, a sturdy senior guard, burst onto the scene earlier this season to lead the Pac-12 in scoring. Despite his average of 21.8 ppg, Nelson doesn’t want to be known as just a scorer—he wants to be a winner.
“I just want to do all the necessary things for my team, and if it’s scoring 30, then it’s scoring 30,” Nelson says. “If I have to have 20 assists and 0 points, then that’s what I’ll do. I’m a team player, so whatever it takes to get the win, that’s what I’ll sacrifice and do.”
The native of Santa Barbara, CA, has always been able to light it up—as a junior, Nelson averaged 17.8 points per game and dropped double digits in 26 of the team’s final 27 games—but this season he’s also averaging 3.6 assists a night, something he credits to his teammates.
“I have great teammates, so when I have guys like Devon Collier, Angus Brandt and the guards who can knock down outside shots, it’s really easy to get assists,” Nelson says.
Even with Nelson leading the charge, it’ll be an uphill battle for the Beavers to make the Tournament in a loaded Pac-12. But he’s ready for that.
“That’s definitely an expectation of mine,” Nelson says. “That’s something that we play for and being a college athlete, being a Division I athlete, that’s what you go out and play for each night.”