Ducks Search For Identity

Oregon opens its men's basketball season with a schedule not unlike an NBA team. They'll play six games in 14 days as part of the Global Sports Classic, opening with home games against Northern Arizona, Portland State, Vanderbilt and Jacksonville State, before playing two in Las Vegas.

EUGENE, Ore.,-The situation may not be the perfect one for a team with eight newcomers, but what it will give head coach Dana Altman and his team is a more developed sense of identity.

"We don't know enough… we're not really sure what we have," Altman said.

Part of that is due to the uncertain health of star forward E.J. Singler, who just returned from knee tendinitis and the status of transfer Arsalan Kazemi.

Altman says the maturation process for this young team has been perhaps slowed due to Singler's injury.

"When you do have a lot of new guys, you like the guys that are back to really set the tone. But, E.J. hasn't practiced much," he said.

Singler and junior guard Johnathan Loyd have been at Oregon the longest, due to their longevity with the team, Altman hopes to have one or both of them on the court at all times, at least initially.

"Having one of them on the floor, gives us a little sense of comfort on the sidelines, because they kind of know what we want," he said.

Altman believes it'll take the first six weeks of the season for the team to settle on a rotation and establish roles amongst each other.

"Chemistry-wise people are just getting to know each other's games," Loyd said, calling it the "most important" thing for this team.

Players' roles evolve from season to season, especially on a team with so much personnel turnover. Senior Carlos Emory's transition from back of the bench to double-digit scorer began over the last ten games last season. This year he hopes to assert himself in a different way.

"If there is such thing as coming from the bottom and making it to the top, then this is one of those times where I've got to rise up to the top," he said. "I just have to make sure our preparation comes first and that whatever we do in the game we do what it takes to get the W."

Tony Woods is another who will need to reestablish himself on this year's team. Last season the 6-11 center broke the school-record for blocks in a season, a record Altman believes he'll break again this season, according to Loyd, though, he's developed as an offensive threat.

"Tony last year, was just getting his feet wet with Oregon basketball, he wasn't really a scorer, " Loyd said. "Now he's worked a great deal on his offensive game. So we can go to him more and trust him more on the scoring the ball down low."

Woods and junior college forward Waverly Austin provide what is the most active frontcourt in recent memory. Austin already showcased that in Monday's 82-65 win over Southwestern Oklahoma State, blocking five shots.

Having rim protectors will allow the perimeter players to take more chances defensively, Loyd says.

"I just hope our guys don't use that as a crutch and depend on them too much," Altman said." We need to do a better job of fighting the dribble. That's something that's got to change."

Whether or not any of the new players will redshirt has yet to be determined, but Altman says at this time he "intends to play them all".

"I think they're getting a better feel for what we're doing. My expectations are pretty high for all of them... We sure have a lot of guys who've made tremendous progress."

Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is perhaps the most important new piece to the puzzle and has shown glimpses of what he's capable of, leading the team in scoring in both of their exhibition games.

"He's off to a nice start. I think there is a lot more there. He'll grow throughout as the season progresses," Altman said. Oregon plays host to Northern Arizona Saturday at 4:30.

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