Just An Appetizer

The Class of the Century. That's the tagline that some have given the 2004 Oregon men's basketball recruiting class. They had their first chance to live up to that billing on Sunday evening in Eugene and they did not disappoint.

Combining for 62 points and 23 rebounds, that class powered the Ducks to a decisive win over the visiting Trinity Western Spartans of Langley, British Columbia, 106-79.

The gem of the class is Malik Hairston, a 6-6 guard from Detroit, the No. 4 ranked forward in the nation by scout.com. He was a late commit for the Ducks but it didn't take him long to make his presence known.

Less than two minutes into the game, Hairston nailed a three from the left side which put the Ducks up 7-2 and opened a tremendous shooting night for the former Renaissance High star.

Hairston did what he wanted all game, going 10-12 from the floor and scoring 30 points in just 19 minutes. The forward also added nine boards, was 7-7 from the line and 3-4 from beyond the arc.

"What a treat to have a player of that caliber," Oregon Head Coach, Ernie Kent, said.

"The guys found me when I was open and they tried to make me look good," Hairston said. "I'm going to return the favor in the upcoming games."

That's not to say he didn't get them involved tonight as well. Hairston finished with three assists and fit in very well with the team in their ball movement.

With six minutes left in the game, Hairston drove to the hoop and had a chance to try an acrobatic shot but instead dropped the ball into the waiting hands of Adam Zahn who threw down a thunderous dunk. This type of unselfishness was displayed by the entire squad tonight.

"I thought this team did a very good job of sharing the ball," Kent said.

As has been a trademark of Kent's Oregon teams, the Ducks made the extra pass tonight, often finding open three-point shooters or finding a way to dump the ball inside to a big.

"Everyone's giving up the ball and making extra passes," Center Ian Crosswhite, who finished with 11 points and eight boards, said. "Once everyone starts to understand a little more what we're doing offensively and defensively, things are just going to get better."

The ball movement stymied the Spartan defense and kept them from really getting into a defensive flow. On offense, though, Trinity Western found a major weapon in Adam Friesen. The 6-3 guard finished with 31 points and nine rebounds in 39 minutes.

Friesen was about it for Trinity Western, while the Ducks had many more weapons than Crosswhite and Hairston. Freshman Bryce Taylor scored 13 points in 18 minutes and made the only play that really brought the Mac Court faithful out of their seats.

With just over 4:10 to go in the first half, Taylor had the ball on the right baseline and took off, rising like gas prices and throwing down a rim-rocking two handed jam over the Trinity defenders.

Taylor, though, is more excited about where this team can go rather than his personal performance in this game.

"We're just trying to learn as much as we can from Coach Kent and once we do get used to the system…we're going to start clicking," he said.

Oregon's other newcomers had solid games as well.

Guard Kenny Love ran the offense comfortably in his 18 minutes of play. The transfer from Casper College had four points and four assists.

Chamberlain Oguci saw 12 minutes of play and finished with seven points.

Maarty Leunen, the 6-9 forward from Redmond, Ore. had eight points and led the team with 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. He also had three assists and two steals. Many times, Leunen would have a chance to take a shot but would pass off to a more open teammate or out to a guard to get the offense going again.

"He did a terrific job," Kent said of Leunen. "He played within himself."

Ray Schafer, Oregon's redshirt-freshman center scored the team's first four points and went 3-3 from the floor in scoring seven points.

Add to Crosswhite, Schafer and Leunen the likes of Matt Short, Adam Zahn and Mitch Platt (who didn't play because of a sore foot) and Oregon has a formidable front line.

"They're the best group of big guys we've had since I've been here," Kent said.

With the group of veterans joining these newcomers, the Ducks have the right to be excited about where this team might go come Pac-10 play.

"If they continue to let us coach them and continue to work as hard as they've worked so far in practice and continue to keep their chemistry where it's been so far, I think they have a chance to really gel and come together and be a really good basketball team," Kent said.


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