By Rob Moseley
Nearly a month of learning each other’s games and getting a feel for what kind of team they can be is about to pay off for the Oregon men’s basketball team.
The Ducks open their exhibition schedule Sunday in Matthew Knight Arena at 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks), against Northwest Christian and coach Luke Jackson, still the No. 2 all-time scorer in UO history.
Oregon is coming off a 28-9 season in which it reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament. But with seven scholarship newcomers on hand -- including Joseph Young after he was granted immediate eligibility Friday -- it will be a new-look team that makes its debut Sunday.
“Guys can’t wait,” said Mike Moser, a senior transfer from UNLV. “We’ve been beating up on each other here for so long (in practice), we just want a chance to beat up on somebody else. Guys are just hungry to get on the floor and compete.”
Head coach Dana Altman declined Thursday to name a starting lineup for the exhibition, one of two the Ducks will play along with a Nov. 2 visit from Point Loma. But Moser seems to have a good shot at one forward spot, replacing the rugged Arsalan Kazemi. And the Ducks boast the sophomore perimeter tandem of point guard Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, the only one of Oregon’s top five scorers from last season who returns.
The other two spots could be bigger question marks. Do the Ducks go big in the post with 6-foot-11 Waverly Austin, or smaller with the 6-8 Ben Carter, who nursed an ankle injury this fall? Is Young the guy at shooting guard, or is senior newcomer Jason Calliste more likely to join Artis and Dotson in the backcourt?
Oregon figures to be a better three-point shooting team and has the depth to press more defensively, if giving up a little on the boards to last year’s team. Those questions and more will be answered Sunday afternoon.
“These next two games, this week and next week, will let us know exactly where we’re at,” Moser said. “Of course it’s the beginning of the season, so we’re nowhere near where we want to be.”
The news Friday that the NCAA had cleared Young for immediate eligibility was a huge boost to the program. As a redshirt sophomore at Houston last season, Young scored 18 points per game, and the NCAA granted a waiver allowing him to be immediately eligible with the Ducks after transferring.
"Offensively, he's a handful," Moser said. "Nobody wants to guard him; nobody can guard him."
Moser said Young isn't the stereotypical scorer who is only dangerous offensively.
"He's the exact opposite," Moser said. "He can score and also lock guys up on the other end."
Young has been a full participant in practices the last few weeks, as the Ducks work he, Moser, Calliste and junior college transfers Richard Amardi, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit into the mix. Not to be overlooked is the presence of a second point guard, reigning Pac-12 Tournament most outstanding player Johnathan Loyd.
The trio of Young (18.0), Calliste (14.4) and Dotson (11.4) each scored in double figures last season. Teamed with Artis and Loyd, the Ducks have a quintet of players with a combined 434 career three-pointers.
Altman said the Ducks have been up and down in practices so far, perhaps not unexpected given the turnover on the roster.
“We haven’t been as consistent as we would like us to be,” Altman said. “But I can’t fault their effort, can’t fault their attitude. They just kind of lose their focus sometimes, and good teams don’t do that.
“So we’ve got some work to do there. But just playing somebody else, and getting them out in front of some people, hopefully will get them relaxed a little bit for the next time we do.”
Northwest Christian, based in Eugene, was 9-21 last season before turning to the all-time UO great Jackson to lead the program. The Beacons’ roster boasts two transfers from Oregon, Coleton Baker and Austin Kuemper.
Former UO head coach Ernie Kent will provide color commentary on the Pac-12 Networks telecast.