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BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Oregon State junior guard becoming a reliable starter

PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State forward Zach Reichle from Wilsonville has settled into the Beavers starting lineup in his third season in Corvallis.CORVALLIS — Zach Reichle is almost too smart to play basketball.

Oregon State's junior shooting guard is a 3.9 student in business information systems — "basically computer science, tech and business," he said.

"This has been my toughest term so far," Reichle said. "The combination of classes I'm taking this term is pretty ridiculous. I don't have time for anything but school and basketball.

"I'm pretty excited about (finals week) being over with. I've never been this mentally tired from school before."

Reichle, a first-team Pac-12 All-Academic selection last season, will graduate this spring — finishing his undergrad studies in three years — and begin work on an MBA next year as he plays his senior season.

"We've had some good students in the program through the years, but he's right up there," Coach Wayne Tinkle said. "That's what's great about Zach. What you see on the court — the character, the integrity — that's who he is off the court, too."

Reichle is having a big impact on the court in his first season as a full-time starter. The 6-4 southpaw ranks fourth on the team in scoring at 9.1 points per game, shooting .500 from the field and .370 from 3-point range. He has only 11 turnovers in nine games for the 8-1 Beavers, who head out for a road trip to play Texas San Antonio and Texas A&M this week.

It's a far cry from his first two seasons at Oregon State, in which he looked lost at times and never found a rhythm. As a freshman in 2017-18, Reichle averaged 1.7 points in 8.7 minutes a game, shooting .308 from the field and .343 from 3-point range. As a sophomore last season, he started 13 games but averaged only 3.5 points in 19.2 minutes, shooting .302 from the field and .324 from the 3-point line.

"I'm not going to lie — those were two really hard years for me," Reichle said. "It was tough coming to a new program, not playing much, trying to find my role. It's tougher when you have great players like Stevie Thompson (Jr.) playing ahead of you. It's something I wasn't used to. My confidence went away."

ZACH REICHLEReichle had been Big Man on Campus at Wilsonville High, where he led the Wildcats to back-to-back state 5A championships and earned unanimous acclaim as the state's player of the year during his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, he averaged 24.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.1 steals.

By that time he'd already picked Oregon State over Cal Irvine, Princeton and Harvard — yes, he had Ivy League academic cred.

"I'm from Oregon," Reichle said. "My family could watch my games, and it felt like home here. I also wanted to challenge myself at the Pac-12 level. It was a bigger challenge than I anticipated."

Reichle stewed during his first two seasons with the Beavers.

"I've always been a guy who was hard on myself," he said. "My parents used to tell me to take a deep breath and relax. That's what I needed to do. Calm down and just keep working. Those first two years, I was extremely hard on myself."

Thompson Jr. is gone and Reichle is now one of the veterans on an OSU team with eight new players. He has been one of the Beavers' cool heads in the early season.

"It was a matter of him transitioning from what he was for Wilsonville and what we needed him to do to be successful at our level," Tinkle said. "Now he has the maturity, being a third-year guy. This last offseason, he really worked hard on his areas of efficiency. He has figured out what he needs to do to help this team. it's freed his mind up. He is playing with so much more comfort in what he's supposed to do out there.

"We knew what he was capable of all along. It was just a matter of him getting there."

More than once during a practice session, Tinkle has singled out Reichle as a player doing it the right way.

"Zach has an incredible work ethic," the coach said. "I'll look at him and say, 'This is where the bar should be for everybody.'

"Last year, I asked Tres (Tinkle, the coach's son and a senior forward), 'Why does Zach Reichle play?' He said, 'Because he's smart and he works his ass off.' It's nice to have him to the point where he understands and is comfortable with what we expect of him."

Reichle knows the Beavers need him to hit shots, especially from beyond the arc. But he is being called upon to play better defense than he was able to his first two seasons.

"Defense is a huge part of what I need to do," Reichle said. "There are times where I'll be the guy the coaches use to outwork the best player on the other team."

"Zach knows his deficiency is his lateral quickness and keeping guys in front of them,' Tinkle said. "His first two years, he'd get blown by for layups. This year, he's making his guy work. He's a physical defender."

Reichle is hitting a good percentage of 3-point attempts, but he is also scoring often on a drive and reverse layup that he didn't display his first two seasons.

"It was something I was really good at in high school," he said. "But my first two years at OSU, I wasn't used to having those big ol' 7-foot athletic guys to contend with. I worked on that this offseason; I'm more confident in doing it now."

In Oregon State's 81-76 win over Portland State on Dec. 1, Reichle scored a career-high 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting — 6 for 6 on 2-point attempts, 0 for 2 on 3's.

"He was running the floor, crashing the glass, getting to the foul line," Tinkle said. "It was about being a cutter, a rebounder, a runner in transition. He and Alfred (Hollins) were two big keys. We knew what Tres, Ethan (Thompson) and Kylor (Kelley) would give us this year. It's great to have those two guys pick it up for us."

If it looks as if Reichle is pretty good with his off hand, he's actually shooting with it.

"That's one thing no one really knows about me," he said. "I shot right-handed when I was getting started playing basketball. But left-handed felt better, and my dad taught me to shoot that way."

Reichle eats and writes right-handed.

"I do everything but shoot a basketball right-handed," he said. "I feel like being naturally right-handed actually helps a lot on the basketball court."

Reichle has big goals for the Beavers this season.

"We want to win the conference championship, though the Pac-12 is pretty darn good this year," he said. "It's going to be tough. We want to make the NCAA Tournament. That's everyone's goal. But you can't let your goal fog your vision from what's right in front of you. We'll take them one at a time, focus on beating the next team in front of us."

Even if it hadn't work out for him in basketball, Reichle is glad he signed with Oregon State.

"It's been a good decision," he said. "My parents used to say, 'If you weren't going to play basketball, where would you want to go to school?' For me, that was Oregon State. This is a great place to be."

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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