By Rob Moseley
Two guys who will be key contributors for the Oregon men’s basketball team this season showed recently that they definitely know how to finish.
The Ducks were holding their team photo day in Matthew Knight Arena last week, when Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Elgin Cook were asked what roles fans will see them play in the upcoming season. Each ended his description with a flourish.
Said Abdul-Bassit, a 6-foot-4 guard from Anchorage: “They’re going to see me score, see me shoot a lot of threes – see me make a lot of threes.”
Said Cook, a 6-6 forward from Milwaukee: “Come off the bench, get a lot of rebounds, play defense – and dunk on a lot of people.”
Among the reasons UO coach Dana Altman has been so successful with transfers the past three seasons, guard Johnathan Loyd said, is Altman’s ability to find players who can contribute specifically where the Ducks need help. On a team that wanted to improve its perimeter scoring and make up for loss of several rebounding threats, Abdul-Bassit and Cook fit that bill to a T.
“Be active, hard-nosed, get to the free-throw line,” Cook said. “Whatever I’ve got to do to help the team win.”
Both junior college transfers seem to have embraced the idea of contributing off the bench for this season. With Damyean Dotson, Jason Calliste and (pending his NCAA waiver request) Joseph Young on hand, Abdul-Bassit figures he’ll be Oregon’s version of James Harden or Jamal Crawford, providing a scoring threat off the bench.
Cook, meanwhile, joins a frontcourt headlined by veterans Ben Carter and Waverly Austin, plus senior transfer Mike Moser. As a sophomore, Cook knows his time will come, particularly given the presence of fellow second-year Ducks Dotson and Dominic Artis.
“It’s a major opportunity,” Cook said. “I’ve got three years to be here and grow with the guys, just become a team. It’s cool.”
Abdul-Bassit is a junior, a former all-Alaska player and state champion who blossomed as a shooter his senior year. He averaged 14 points per game as a junior, but nearly doubled that to 27 as a senior, thanks to work he did on his shooting form with his uncle, Adams State coach Louis Wilson.
Abdul-Bassit began his college career at Monroe in Rochester, N.Y., then played last season at North Idaho College, where his father also played. Last season, Abdul-Bassit averaged 13 points and was 52-of-132 from three-point range, hitting at a 38.5 percent clip.
On the day UO coaches came to scout him, Abdul-Bassit was sick, he said. Despite that, he managed to hit a trio of three-pointers, showing off the very skill the Ducks needed.
“It was a pretty good day,” said Abdul-Bassit, who hopes to get his other skills on par with his shooting now that he’s at Oregon. “Then they said they were going to offer me (a scholarship), and I almost cried.”
Cook, the son of four-time NBA All-Star Alvin Robertson, took an equally circuitous path to Eugene. Considered potentially the best player in Wisconsin among 2011 high school graduates, Cook spent the next two seasons at Northwest Florida State, redshirting his first year and then leading the Raiders to the NJCAA national championship game.
Cook averaged 14.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game as a redshirt freshman, showing off the diversity of athletic skills that has so impressed his new UO teammates. And he had the chance to mature off the court by delaying his arrival in Division I, something he has come to appreciate.
“I think it helped me in a lot of ways,” Cook said.
Now he and Abdul-Bassit will try to help the Ducks off the bench, two junior-college transfers finding their way at the major-college level.
“They’re adjusting to the speed of the game, knowing you’ve got to play hard all the time,” Loyd said. “Like, Elgin, he’s probably the most athletic guy we’ve got. Sometimes he doesn’t crash the boards and coach is like, ‘You’re too athletic not to go to the boards every time.’”
Between shots at the photo session last week, Cook sounded ready to embrace that mentality.
“I just want to come in and help the team win, period,” he said. “Everything’s a lot more fun if you’re winning.”