Men to be more defensive

Oregon's Head Basketball Coach Ernie Kent held Media Day on Wednesday and described his team as having all the necessary parts to be successful -- if they can be a cohesive unit. The headman thought his team has come back from the summer workouts a stronger and smarter team and continually eluded to one phase of the game the team will concentrate on -- defense. Kent indicated his team will be led by experience and that the team learned lessons from last year's disappointing Pac-10 season.

"This team this year to say the least, I think they are a little bit guarded," said Kent. "(From) what they went through last year, they aren't going to get too far ahead of themselves."

The Ducks finished 14-13, (6-12, tied for 8th in the Pac-10) last season after some high expectations early on. The Ducks return 12 lettermen and add two transfers, forward Ivan Johnson (6-8, 255) and guard Churchill Odia (6-6, 205) to the roster. Junior forward Mitch Platt will use a redshirt this season. Guard Jordan Kent is now playing football and will join the team once football season has concluded.

Defense will be the theme of the fall workouts for the Ducks. Last year the Ducks gave up too many points off the dribble and had trouble controlling the tempo of games. Kent believes that in some cases the Ducks became leg weary because so many freshmen were played, and thinks his players have learned from the mistakes of the past. Kent thought his team is big enough, fast enough and shoots well enough, but the emphasis will be on the defensive end of the court. He wants to put more pressure on opposing teams this season and from the first practice on the emphasis will be on defense.

"If the game could be played without the basketball, we would do it," exclaimed Kent. "Because it is going to be the defensive end of the floor."

Kent expects sophomore Malik Hairston to have an expanded role this season. Last year, the 6-foot-6 guard averaged 13.1 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game, but at times seemed to pass up scoring opportunities and even passed too much. This season that could change as Hairston is shooting with more ease and consistency.

With the addition of new comer Ivan Johnson, the Ducks have a player that adds a physical presence, who is able to rebound and score. Johnson, along with the other big men is very physical and athletic. Johnson in particular is a physical specimen that might catch the eye of football coach Mike Bellotti, and certainly passes the eyeball test of what a power forward should look like.

The one player that did catch Bellotti's eye, Jordan Kent will rejoin the men's team later on in the basketball campaign. Kent was one of the crowd favorites last year with his hustle and enthusiasm. What will be the obstacles Jordan Kent will face when returning the hardwoods?

"The biggest thing for Jordan is the timing," said Ernie Kent. "He'll be coming out of an environment where you run and hit people. Run and get hit. Get off the ground and go back to the huddle. It will be the timing of things and basketball endurance."

On Friday night, Midnight Madness will come to Mac Court -- at 9 p.m. to accommodate East Coast audiences. This event is an opportunity for the Ducks to showcase the program and legendary Mac Court.

"We are being considered as one of the top-10 all-time toughest arenas to play in, right here at Mac Court, and that is something that is going to be something announced and I believe previewed this fall by ESPN," announced Kent. "To be able to have them come in here on Friday night, I don't think is so much as compliment to our program. Although I believe it is, but more so a compliment to this community and to Mac Court and what these fans have done in terms of building that reputation. So it is going to be a great opportunity to show case ourselves on national TV."

The 2005-06 season will start on November 9th with an exhibition game against Southern Oregon. The regular season starts on November 20th against Savannah State in the Hispanic College Fund Classic. Georgetown will come to Mac Court on December 3rd and the Ducks will travel to Portland on December for a return match with Illinois in the Papè Jam. Pac-10 play will start on New Year's eve (December 31st) with a home game against Oregon State.

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