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Tres Tinkle takes the ball to the basket for Missoula Hellgate in a crosstown basketball game against Missoula Sentinel last season. Tinkle, the reigning State AA most valuable player, leads a squad of experienced Knights in their drive for a second consecutive state championship this winter.

TOM BAUER/Missoulian

Wayne Tinkle shouldn’t feel too bad about having to miss his son’s basketball games during Tres’ final year of high school this winter. As it turns out, he’ll have the best seat in the house for next season.

Tres Tinkle, a 6-foot-7 senior at Missoula Hellgate and Montana’s top hoops prospect, verbally committed Tuesday to play for his father at Oregon State. The junior Tinkle made an official recruiting visit to Corvallis, Oregon, this past weekend before committing to the Beavers with another pair of high school standouts.

“Kids and coaches kept telling me playing for your dad was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they’d wished they had been able to play for their dads,” Tres said of joining his father, the former University of Montana head coach. “As time went on in the middle of summer, I was starting to realize that.

“He’s a great guy, a great coach,” he continued. “He knows my game better than anybody. I know with him by my side and the coaches there, they’re gonna push me to be as successful as I want to be.”

Last week, Tres announced he would not follow his family to Oregon, instead opting to return to Hellgate to earn his diploma.

Oregon State hired away Wayne Tinkle this spring and the newest Beaver head man is already putting his stamp on the Pac-12 program. His recruiting class of 2015 not only features his four-star small forward son, but four-star shooting guard Stephen Thompson Jr. and three-star point guard Derrick Bruce, all of whom committed to OSU on Tuesday. They join Oregon native and highly touted center Drew Eubanks, who pledged his allegiance to the Beavs last week.

Scout.com ranks Oregon State’s class as a top-10 group nationally.

The Montanan in the bunch is the highlight, though. Tres is ranked as the No. 45 recruit in the nation by ESPN for his class. As a junior, he averaged 21.1 points per game and added 7.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.8 steals for the Knights. He led the team to a second-place State AA finish and was named the state tournament’s MVP.

Hellgate won it all the year before.


The trio’s group commitment started with Tres and Thompson, the son of OSU assistant coach Stephen Thompson, back in early August.

“We played together every single day and worked out and started a really good relationship there,” Tres said of a friendship with the Bishop Montgomery (California) High School senior, the No. 55 overall recruit according to ESPN.

“ ‘We should go to Oregon State together and help put Oregon State back on the map as a good college basketball team,’ ” he replayed their conversations.

The duo helped convince Bruce, a Rivals.com top 125 recruit from Orlando, during their joint visit last week, Tres said.

Coach Tinkle and his staff cannot comment on recruits until after they sign their letters of intent. But as a father, he’s delighted to see his son make the big move.

“As a a dad, I’m thrilled that he’s thought this through and made his decision,” Wayne Tinkle told the Missoulian. “(My wife) Lisa and I are happy that he’s at peace with that and can focus on his senior year now, both academically and athletically.”

The early signing period for NCAA Division I basketball commits begins Nov. 12.

The younger Tinkle is reveling in the madness and excitement that followed his commitment Tuesday. Though it’s still a full year away, Corvallis is calling his name.

“I’ve grown up in Missoula my whole life and you get the same feeling in Corvallis – like I’m going to a new Missoula,” he said.

Tres also drew scholarship offers from Pac-12 teams USC and Utah, as well as Boston College. As many as 30 other schools, including conference foes Arizona State, Cal and Colorado had also shown interest in the Missoulian.

Reporter AJ Mazzolini can be reached at (406) 523-5298, at anthony.mazzolini@missoulian.com, @AJMazzolini or missoulapreps.com.

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