Focus On Freshmen

As though Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd were their tour guides, Oregon Ducks basketball fans hopped in the DeLorean and were given a glimpse of the future tonight with the much-anticipated debuts of three highly touted young ballers. <br><br>(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon's Mitch Platt, right, goes to the basket against MBC Nikolaev's Oleksandr Chausov in the second half of an exhibition game at McArthur Court in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Nov 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

MBC Nikolaev from Ukraine stopped on their tour of northwest college exhibition games in Eugene for Oregon's season opener. The Ducks used their superior talent and endurance to get past the streaky Ukranians 96-76.

(PHOTO RIGHT) Oregon's Andrea Joseph, right, drives for two points against MBC Nikolaev's Volodymyr Polyakh in the second half of an exhibition game in Eugene, Ore., Nov. 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Through much of the first half, the Ukranians shot the lights out. They finished the first half shooting nearly 55% from the field and nearly 44% from beyond the arc. This Reggie Miller like shooting made the early going tough for the Ducks. Oregon actually trailed 26-21 with less than 12 minutes to play in the first half.

Oregon took the lead back on a pair of Andre Joseph free throws, which made the score 27-26, with 10:33 left in the first half and never relinquished it. A 10-0 run at the end of the first half and a 17-4 run to open the second half put the Ukranians away for good.

More exciting than the game, however, were the first looks that Oregon fans had of true freshmen Aaron Brooks and Mitch Platt, and of redshirt freshman Adam Zahn.

Brooks, the 6-0 guard from Seattle's Franklin High School started and showed that he could be a very electrifying player to watch in the coming years. The McDonald's High School All-American scored 14 points in 24 minutes on 5-10 field goal shooting and 2-3 from beyond the arc.

"Aaron Brooks is going to be a threat in this league," said Oregon forward Luke Jackson.

He was able to use his incredible speed off the dribble to go right past Ukranian defenders and either find the open man or create in the paint. Brooks also showed off his shooting ability with the two three pointers.

"He pushes the ball as fast as any point guard in the Pac-10," according to Oregon center Ian Crosswhite.

(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon's Ian Crosswhite (11) goes to the basket against MBC Nikolaev's Oleksandr Chausov in the first half of an exhibition game in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

With under nine minutes left in the game, Ukranian guard Oleksandr Rayevskyy had the ball out in transition. Brooks raced down the court and as Rayevskyy went up for a lay-up, Brooks swatted the ball out of the air much to the delight of the Mac Court faithful.

Mitch Platt, a 6-10 forward-center from Henderson, Nevada also started and gave a preview of the force he provides inside. Platt snatched eight rebounds and played solid defense in 29 minutes of action. He also added four points on 2-5 shooting.

"Mitch Platt could have scored a lot more had we gotten him the ball," Kent said.

Adam Zahn also saw his first game action for the Ducks after redshirting last season. The 6-8 forward let his presence be known early when he took off from the right baseline and threw down a thunderous one-handed slam. Zahn showed a lot of athletic ability and proved to be a spark off the bench for the Ducks. In 17 minutes the forward from Redondo Beach, California scored five points and had four rebounds.

"Adam's going to be awesome," said Crosswhite. "He's just so athletic. He's just got to keep working on the skills that he has and he's going to be awesome."

Duck fans were also treated to a "new and improved" Ian Crosswhite, according to Coach Kent. Crosswhite showed a much improved work ethic and hustle while going inside to get many of his 15 points. He also grabbed seven boards to go with his 6-8 shooting.

Oregon also got solid performances out of Luke Jackson, Andre Joseph and James Davis. The three seniors scored 18, 20 and 12 points respectively. Jackson added 10 boards and two steals.

(PHOTO RIGHT) Oregon's Aaron Brooks, left, goes to the basket against MBC Nikolaev's Evgen Podorvannyy in the first half of an exhibition game in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Other than a few minor mistakes the Ducks looked to be in sync with each other on the court tonight. Even the freshmen seemed to fit right into the flow of the game.

"The chemistry is awesome on this team," Kent said. "This is the best chemistry team I've had in a long time and you can sense that when they play."

MBC Nikolaev drops to 1-3 on their American tour after losses to Portland State and Portland but beating Linfield. They will complete their journey with games at Washington State, Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington and Montana State. Looking ahead, the Ducks will face off against the EA Sports All-Stars in Mac Court on November 17th, a game that Ian Crosswhite says won't be so easy.

"We've got a tougher opponent coming in next week," he said. "It won't be so easy to just go out and play against them."

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