MISSOULA — Tres Tinkle’s task was simple.
In a workout for the Boston Celtics, all the Missoula native had to do was run from one baseline to the other as many times as possible in three minutes. Each touch on the baseline counted as one sprint completed.
He was told that 26 or 27 was considered extremely good. If he did it 28 times, it was elite.
So Tinkle competed and walked away with 28¼ completed, good enough to turn heads for the Celtic brass — even Danny Ainge, the general manager of the Celtics.
“He told me how he impressed he was with that," the 2015 Hellgate grad said. "I told everyone before that workout that I was going to win it, and they were going, 'You're crazy, you have to fly,' but my competitiveness to keep going really stands out.
"I may not be the fastest but I'm the most determined guy out there so I did it."
Comments like that from Ainge along with other technical details were exactly what the 6-foot-8 Tinkle was looking for when he announced he was entering his name in the 2019 NBA Draft back in April. Just a few weeks ago, after getting that feedback, Tinkle withdrew his name and announced he would be returning to Oregon State for his senior year of college.
With his name in the NBA Draft pool, Tinkle worked out with six teams: the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets, Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks. Tinkle also had a pro day with agency Next Sports in Atlanta.
Tinkle, 23, traveled between Corvallis and Eugene, Oregon, where he trained for the draft process. There he worked out with coaches and focused on areas he thought would be important once his workouts began. He said Oregon State associate head coach Kerry Rupp used information he had on how draft workouts had gone in the past and worked with Tinkle as he prepared.
That preparation had Tinkle ready for any drill he might see. He would’ve liked to have more 3-on-3 training, but with the lack of people around him that was hard to do so he made the most of what he had. Another big adjustment was playing alongside guys who, like Tinkle, were doing everything they could to get noticed.
“I’m very team oriented and you get into some of these workouts where everybody is trying to showcase their skill to try to impress. You almost feel like you’re out there running around and can’t do a whole bunch,” Tinkle said. “A lot of people like to shoot it a bunch and that can either help or hurt you depending on if you’re making shots.
“So in the first couple of workouts, that was an adjustment for me in that people weren’t really looking to pass to you. They’re out there for themselves. And as I kind of understood that I had to be a lot more aggressive and not force plays but play for myself and do all I can to get noticed. And I think that’s something I did well.”
Tinkle said he hit shots when he needed to and attacked the basket when he was open. Other little things included making the right cuts, getting his teammates the ball and talking. Because of that, Tinkle felt he was playing within his own game.
Utah was his first workout, which was eye-opening in and of itself.
"So much is thrown at you and I was going against guys that it was their fourth workout and they've been doing it for two or three years at a time and this was my first workout ever," Tinkle said. "I wasn't nervous because of how I prepared but just didn't really know what to expect. So that one was definitely more of a learning tool and figure everything out.
"You're playing against the nation's best and you get to see where you rank and stand. With what I was given, I felt like I did extremely well."
Oregon State men's basketball coach and Tres' father, Wayne Tinkle, now had to balance guiding Tres and fellow Beaver Ethan Thompson, and also preparing his squad for the 2019-20 season. Thompson, a rising junior, also entered his name in the draft.
"Initially, you're wanting to start building for next year's team as a coach, but when you have players where it's justified that have an opportunity to use this tool to see where they're at in the minds of the NBA teams and to receive the feedback on what they need to work on, is a great tool," the former Montana head coach said. "It helped them with that moving forward but it re-instilled some of the things we've been telling them they have to continue to work on as well. It's nice to have another voice tell them those things.
"I know both were very positive with their experience and the efforts they put in."
The elder Tinkle, who just completed his fifth season at the helm at Oregon State, also recalled his own experience with pre-draft workouts after his playing days at Montana. So he tried to give advice as much as he could in that realm. Naturally, waiting to hear back whether his son or Thompson would come back also was stressful as they were looking to move forward with the roster. Thompson announced shortly after Tres that he would return.
But from a father's perspective, it was tough. Specifically, the possibility of not getting to celebrate a senior night with Tres as he'd done with other players.
"There were nights where I was thinking that I may have coached him for the last time," Wayne said. "On one side I want what's best for him but as a dad and coach you want to be able to enjoy your seniors and all they've worked through to get to where they are. There were some emotional times there and when he made that decision, it was neat to see that we're definitely going to be able to go through all of that and enjoy that last go around."
As each workout came and went, the younger Tinkle felt his confidence grow. Of all of the workouts, he said he felt the most comfortable in Toronto because the Raptors held Tinkle in high regard as a player of interest. Toronto was just crowned the NBA champion on Thursday.
"Everyone working me out knew my name and who I was and loved the way I played," Tinkle said. "I knew Toronto was a big fan of me."
After his workout, Toronto executives told Tinkle they firmly believed he could play in the NBA, and that were he still in the draft pool, he could be a player they would consider picking late in the second round. The NBA Draft will take place on Thursday in Brooklyn, New York.
He said every team he worked out with ended with their variation of shooting 100 NBA-range 3-pointers. Tinkle said he was told the NBA average is around 64 but Tinkle converted anywhere from 70 to 72 attempts.
While Tinkle was confident in himself, front office executives told him they thought shooting from deep consistently was going to be an area of improvement for him before he showed up. A career 32.4 percent 3-point shooter at OSU, Tinkle was able to show that he has already been making strides in improving that part of his game.
The other main area of feedback Tinkle said he received was teams wanted to see him improve his lateral quickness and work on his defense, including the confidence in defending multiple positions.
"But other than that they said they loved the way I play, my toughness and my competitiveness," Tinkle said. "They said that's what's going to get me to the next level is the way I play. Now it's showing that I can guard multiple positions which I definitely think I can. I know I can get quicker."
When it came to rebounds, steals, passing and making the right decision on certain plays, Tinkle felt that he stood out in those categories. He also said teams liked his energy and basketball IQ and his ability to grind. One player he was compared to by some teams was Joe Ingles who is a forward for the Jazz.
Tres did utilize an agent throughout the process, another area where Wayne helped and advised where he could. And when it came to deciding whether Tres should come back or stay in the draft pool, Wayne admits he had to be careful.
"I had to put all of the facts out there and it did seem like I was trying to influence him because most of my feedback was the positives coming back versus the positives keeping his name in," Wayne said. "He ultimately realized that he had some things to work on and then also some team goals here as well that he didn't want to leave unfinished. He reached that decision on his own."
And Tres did just that, opting to head back to OSU for his senior year of school where he could make history and potentially break the school's all-time scoring mark. Tinkle has 1,661 career points, just 511 shy of Gary Payton.
Now Tinkle has areas of his game he can focus on while trying to help the team accomplish its goals. The Beavers went 18-13 last year and 10-8 conference, the first time OSU has had a winning conference record in 29 years. Tinkle earned his second first-team All-Pac-12 honor last season after averaging 20.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals.
Tinkle has never played in the NCAA Tournament, and getting there as one of the team's leaders is also on his list of things to accomplish. When OSU made the tournament in 2016, he missed the game due to injury. He also graduated on Saturday from OSU with his undergrad degree in communications.
But all of that feedback through this process, whether praise or criticism, was exactly what Tinkle wanted out of this experience with these teams. Good or bad, Tinkle listened to what every team had to say and absorbed it all.
"It's a job interview," he said. "All eyes are on you.
"I'm going to come back next year doing all of these things are a much higher level. That's the kind of competitor I am and never being satisfied and using all of these things and tightening up my strengths and building upon my weaknesses and really try to be a lock for next year where it's going to be a no-brainer."