Oregon Hoops Preview

Over the next few weeks DevilsDigest.com will endeavor to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming 2003-2004 basketball season in the Pacific-10 conference. The fifth part of this multi-part series looks at the Oregon Ducks.

Oregon Ducks (Eugene, Oregon)
2002-03 Record: 20-9 (10-8)
Postseason: NCAA Round 1
Returning Starters: 2
Head Coach: Ernie Kent(seventh season)

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starter(s) in BOLD)

PG: Aaron Brooks, 6-0, 160 Fr. (McDonald's All-American at Franklin HS, Seattle WA)
SG: James Davis, 5-10, 175 Sr. (10.5 ppg, .425 FG% .431 3PT% .905 FT%)/
SF: Luke Jackson, 6-7, 215 Sr. (16.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .452 FG% .352 3PT% .867 FG%)/
PF : Jay Anderson, 6-9, 220 Sr. (2.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg in 12.8 minutes per game)
C: Ian Crosswhite, 6-11, 250 So. (9.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, .519 FG%, .418 3 PT% .744 FT%)

Key Returning Reserves:

Andre Joseph, 6-3, 185 Sr. (9.3 ppg, .408 FG%.348 3PT% .689 FT%)
Matt Short, 7-0 235 So. (2.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg in 10.6 minutes per game)
Brandon Lincoln, 6-4, 200 So. (8.8 minutes per game)
Jordan Kent, 6-5, 200 Fr. (redshirted in 2002-03)
Adam Zahn, 6-8, 225 Fr. (redshirted 2002-03)

Key Losses:

Luke Ridnour (19.7 ppg, 7 apg, 3.4 rpg, Honorable Mention All-American; Pac-10 POY)
Robert Johnson (7.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Brian Helquist (3.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg)

Recruiting Class:

Aaron Brooks, 6-0, 160 Fr. (Gatorade State Player of the Year, Franklin HS, Seattle, WA)
Mitch Platt, 6-10, 270 Fr. (Green Valley HS, Henderson, NV)
Ray Schafer, 7-0, 230 Fr. (Gatorade State Player of the Year, Wasilla HS, Wasilla, AK )

Recruiting Class Grade: B+

Brooks is the jewel of the class. An explosive lightning-bolt of a point guard, this McDonald's All-American is as good a replacement of Luke Ridnour as can be expected. Platt is a true back-to-the-basket post with very nice size and a decent skill package. He runs the floor well and will likely be one of the better passing big men in the Pac-10 a few years from now. Schafer needs to add strength and play against more consistent quality competition than can be found in Alaska, but that will not be a problem at Oregon, which has more legitimate depth in the post than any other Pac-10 team. He could blossom into a starter in a few years time.

Team Overview:

It has been a great millennium for Oregon coach Ernie Kent. In three of the last four years and for the previous two in a row, his teams have won 20 or more basketball games. In 2002 the Ducks advanced to the Elite-8 of the NCAA-Tournament and he was deservingly named National Coach of the Year.

For the past two years he has served as head coach of the USA Basketball Junior National Program, guiding the squad to a bronze medal finish at the Junior World Championships. In the process, Kent was able to get an early start in coaching incoming freshman point guard, Aaron Brooks, the player he hopes will take charge at the point following the early-NBA declaration of outgoing Pacific-10 Player of the Year at Oregon, Luke Ridnour.

Brooks comes to the University well-regarded, having been named Washington high school Player of the Year by the Associated Press and Gatorade and also being chosen for the prestigious McDonald's All-American game this past spring. He is extremely quick, athletic, and an accomplished floor general, though he is a bit slight of stature and often plays somewhat out of control.

Should Brooks struggle out of the gate, as Ridnour himself did at times as a freshman and former McDonald's All-American in the 2000-01 season, expect Brandon Lincoln to step in and play significant minutes at the point guard position. Lincoln is a bigger, more physical player than Brooks; he has proven himself very steady in times of need, such at the Stanford win last season in which he played heavy minutes in the first half after Ridnour picked up two quick fouls and sat out the rest of the period.

Regardless of whether Brooks or Lincoln is in the game, their main objective will be to push the basketball up the floor in the breakneck pace favored by Kent, and perhaps even more importantly, get the ball into the hands of dead-eyed wings, Luke Jackson, James Davis and Andre Joseph. That trio makes up arguably the best shooting group of wings in the conference.

By now, everyone should be relatively familiar with Jackson. The all-conference performer from a season ago was the only player to finish among the top-10 in the conference in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals, a rather remarkable accomplishment indeed. Jackson also spent his summer playing on the prestigious Pan American Junior National team, one of three Pac-10 players on the squad, the others being Arizona State's Ike Diogu, and Stanford's Josh Childress.

Davis started most of the team's games last season at the shooting guard position and in that role, he led the conference in three-point baskets with 90 on the season. Simply put, he is a gunner, one of several players with the green light on any and every open look at the basket. It appears as though he will continue in his role as starter despite being heavily pushed at times last year and into the off-season by Andre Joseph. Joseph is a taller more versatile wing generally thought of as the better perimeter defender of the two, and a similarly green-lighted shooter.

Last season, for the most part, Kent simply paired Jackson on the wing with either Davis or Joseph based on which player had the hot shooting hand. With 291 made three-point baskets on the season, the Ducks averaged more than 10 long-range bombs per game, most in the Pac-10. Expect more of the same this year, with Kent's son, redshirt freshman Jordan Kent, also factoring into the rotation in a more limited capacity.

In the frontcourt, the Ducks have numerous options available to replace outgoing starters Robert Johnson and Brian Helquist. What the team lacks in star quality up front it makes up for with true depth and a system that is not particularly reliant on post play and half-court sets.

Ian Crosswhite, an honorable mention all-freshman player in the Pac-10 last season is the most skilled and versatile in the group. He is an accomplished scorer, capable of facing up and making shots out to the three-point line. Defensively however he was relatively ineffective last season. Still, he is an odds-on favorite to begin the season as a starter at one of the interchangeable post positions.

The other starting frontcourt position is relatively up for grabs. Jay Anderson, another versatile player who likes to face up, is the most likely candidate to fill the role due to his experience; at least in the early going while Matt Short nurses a stress fracture in his lower leg. Short, played well in spurts last season and is a taller more traditional post player who simply needs to add strength and game experience. He is expected back by the end of November.

Regardless of who starts, freshmen Mitch Platt and Adam Zahn figure to factor into the rotation in Oregon's deep frontcourt. Both are strong, physical players. Platt is a better passer, and Zahn is a better natural athlete. Once Short comes back, the Ducks will likely go five deep at the "four" and "five" positions, with an outside possibility of Luke Jackson playing some minutes at the "four" slot should Kent decide to match-up with smaller teams by showing a three-guard look. Ray Schafer may redshirt, but even if he does not, it is unlikely he cracks the rotation.

Interesting Factoids:

-Oregon is the returning Pac-10 tournament champions…Luke Jackson played on the Pan American team this summer…He is also the only returning player in the conference in the top-10 in scoring, rebounding, assists and turnovers…James Davis led the Pac-10 in three-point baskets last season with 90…Ian Crosswhite was Honorable Mention freshmen All-Conference…Aaron Brooks was third-team Parade AA, AP and Gatorade State Player of the Year in Oregon…Ray Schafer was Gatorade State Player of the Year in Alaska…Jordan Kent, the son of head coach Ernie Kent placed 6th in the NCAA Championships this past spring in the 100-meter race (10.57) and 4th in the 200-meter race (21.47)…Jay Anderson was a Honorable Mention Pac-10 all-academic team…Oregon led the Pac-10 in 3PT%, The Ducks were 8th in the league in rebound margin…Oregon plays in Las Vegas on Dec. 20 in the Las Vegas Showdown versus Alabama. …The University has approved plans for a new on-campus basketball arena to replace the existing landmark, McArthur Court, and expect to move into the facility for the 2006 season.

Best Case Scenario:

Aaron Brooks steps into the vacated point guard position left by Luke Ridnour and the Ducks don't miss a beat. Oregon has enough frontcourt depth to off-set the loss of its starters, Johnson and Helquist, and the best home-court advantage in the Pac-10 helps prod the team along to a third consecutive 20-win season and NCAA appearance.

Worst Case Scenario:

The Ducks realize that, losing three starters, including Pac-10 Player of the Year Ridnour is more of a burden to the program than they expected, despite adding the McDonald's All-American, Brooks, and a group of talented but young post players. The young players have a difficult time rebounding and defending in the post. The vaunted home-court advantage which saw the team finish 14-2 at home against a mere 5-6 on the road last season holds less weight with a rookie point guard and the Ducks struggle to a finish of 7th or even 8th in the Pac-10


The Ducks should continue to enjoy one of the best Pac-10 home-court advantages in the coming season, but a replication of last year's record of 14-2 at McArthur Court, or anything close to it, is unlikely, particularly with three new starters including the freshman Brooks at the point. The Ducks finished 10-8 in conference play last year despite the tremendous home court record and conference player of the year Luke Ridnour at the controls of a potent Oregon offense. In a league that has more talent through the middle this year don't be surprised if the Ducks experience a little slippage.

Pac-10 Prediction: 9-9
Postseason Play: NIT

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