I don’t know about you, but I am itching for the Ducks 2012-2013 basketball season, even though it won’t start until November. There is every reason to greatly anticipate the upcoming season, it’s an exciting time for Oregon’s basketball program. It may only be July, but there has been a lot going on since the end of the 2011 -2012 season.
Where do we even begin with all that surrounds the Oregon basketball program?
Well, for starters, head coach Dana Altman will start this upcoming season with the Ducks already hearing the evil “T-word” (transfer) this summer, the unavoidable roadblock that has handcuffed Altman’s ability to maximize his team’s potential, with no detour in site to bypass it.
The King is taking his court somewhere else. Freshman combo guard Brett Kingma decided to transfer away after one season in Eugene, playing sparingly in his freshman campaign. Kingma played in 19 games as a freshman last season and averaged 3.1 points on 31-percent shooting in just under ten minutes a game. He had his best (offensive) game of the season against Vanderbilt, accumulating 10 points and a steal.
By this point in his Oregon tenure, an athlete transferring is something Altman is quite familiar with, perhaps too much, and it must be easier to deal with. Maybe. Oregon has weathered the storm of the exodus of players vacating Eugene for other opportunities, unhappy with the firing of Ernie Kent or seeking more playing time or a coach less-demanding to adhere to a system, one proven to be successful if players accept it.
Kingma is just the most recent in a long unfortunate string of early departures. Where Kingma will be missed most is his outside shooting, something the Ducks need badly this upcoming season with the graduation of long-range sniper Devoe Joseph, himself a transfer coming to Oregon to help fill the voic of other players choosing to leave the Ducks.
Other than senior E.J. Singler, Kingma was the only other ‘sure thing’ outside shooter for Oregon. Kingma went 31-48 from outside (31%) during his limited-role freshman campaign, something he surely would have expanded on in the coming years. It’s no secret that Kingma has the raw talent to be a starter somewhere else. As a Duck, but he struggled on the defensive end for Oregon, and will have to improve on that if he plans to rule a new court.
Brett Kingma’s departure has not been the only heartbreak for the program this summer. Altman had four-star, 6’8″ power forward Chris Obekpa (NY) within his grasp. In fact, of the four schools he was choosing between, he chose to visit Eugene first. However, Sporting News has reported that Obekpa has decided to stay home in New York and play for former UCLA head coach Steve Lavin at St. Johns.
So, Dana Altman had to cast a new line and keep fishing.
As a result, Altman hooked a five star top-10 recruit in Anthony Bennett. The 6’7″ power forward from Henderson, Nev. was ranked as high as seventh on the ESPN 100 list. Bennett’s list consisted of Kentucky, UNLV and Oregon. In the end, like Chris Obekpa, Bennett chose to stay close to home and will be headed to UNLV in the fall.
However, the early recruiting season has not been totally unkind to Altman and the Ducks either, as Coach Altman has since been successful in signing a few decent experienced players to counter the near-misses. Devon Branch from Cloud County Community College in Kansas is one of those players, he signed on the first day of the signing period. Though Branch is a guard, he considers his game similar to that of Kevin Garnett.
His size at 6’5″ does not warrant a comparison to the 6’11” Garnett nor is it perhaps fair to compare an incoming transfer to a certain future NBA Hall of Famer, however, the upside of Branch is his 6’10” wingspan. As a sophomore, Branch averaged 20.4 points, shooting 51 percent from the field, and 41 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He made 80 percent of his free throws, and was second on the team in assists (3.4 per game).
Fred Richardson, a 6’5″ two-guard from Friendswood, Texas, also committed to play for the Ducks. Richardson averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game during his senior season at Clear Brook High School. He chose Oregon over Georgia Tech, Kansas State, and DePaul.
Other members of the Ducks recruiting class include Damyean Dotson (Houston/Yates), Ben Carter (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman), Willie Moore (Cincinnati, Ohio / Aiken High School) and junior college shooting guard Devon Branch (Aberdeen, Md./Cloud County C.C.) in the 2012 class. Redshirt freshman Austin Kuemper of Westview High School in Portland will also be part of the class.
But the gem of the Ducks 2012 class thus far would have to be Dominic “DA” Artis (Richmond, Calif./Findlay), who ranks 62nd on ESPN’s top 100 list. He is rated the number one point guard from the west coast, perfect for Dana Altman’s system because of Artis’ speed and quickness. Look for Artis to potentially make an immediate impact.
So as of July 17, the Ducks have six solid recruits headed for Eugene (three guards, three forwards) thus far. While Dana Altman did not land his top tier recruits, he has to be satisfied with the class he has to work with this fall, as this Oregon team appears to be an upgrade from 2011-2012 despite losing All-Pac-12 player Devoe Joseph. According to cbssports.com, the Oregon Men’s Basketball program has been awarded the fifth best recruiting class in the Pac-12 Conference behind UCLA, Arizona, Colorado and Stanford. Not bad, considering all people have done thus far is largely focus on the big fish that got away.
And yes, Colorado looks to be an even larger challenge this year compared to last.
The question for the upcoming Ducks basketball season is going to be: Will these small setbacks be a mountain the size of Everest that the Ducks will have to grind through and attempt to climb; or will the new, talented but unproven pieces fall into place and help get them into contention for the month of madness? Thus far Oregon has done a good job of filling the coffers, but whether they will be there when the season starts based on recent history is another matter. With a full roster Altman can help players accomplish great things, but having enough bodies to fill a roster has proven difficult, so pardon some cynicism as a result of recent events.
Oregon accomplished great things with a patchwork team of transfers and stop-gap measures, imagine what Coach Altman could do if he had a full roster of guys he recruited who stayed for the long haul.
But it is only July, so if you’re like me, you’re waiting anxiously, biting fingernails at an unhealthy rate, wondering if it’s basketball season yet, and who exactly will show up on opening day clad in Duck green/yellow.
THE LADY DUCK REPORT
It seems that the loss of key pieces is contagious, a trickle-down effect hat has burned the men’s program also intruding on the cohesiveness of the women’s squad as well.
Women’s head coach Paul Westhead has lost a key member of his team, as Keila Whittington will move on the next phase of her coaching career, joining head coach Melissa McFerrin as an assistant coach at the University of Memphis.
Whittington spent three seasons at Oregon, starting in 2009. She served as the Recruiting Coordinator with the women’s basketball program, and also worked with the team’s post players. Whittington helped bring in Westhead’s first UO recruiting class in the fall of 2009, the second class (2010-2011) she oversaw garnered a top-50 rating from ESPN’s Hoopgurlz.
Whittington will serve as the Tigers’ post coach, joining a Memphis team that finished the 2011-12 season with a record of 25-8, advancing to the second round of the WNIT.
To replace Whittington, in steps Bianca Ziemann, who has accumulated four seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate and high school levels since playing professionally in Europe. Coach Ziemann was announced as an Oregon Women’s basketball assistant coach last Thursday.
Ziemann was a four-year letter winner at Loyola Marymount (2002-06), where she served as team captain her junior and senior seasons after helping lead the Lions to the West Coast Conference Championship and an NCAA tournament run in 2004.
Upon the completion of her collegiate career, she played professionally in the Netherlands with Amazone Women’s Basketball during the 2006-07 season as the starting point guard, leading the team to a semifinal appearance in the Dutch Championships.
Ziemann began coaching at Edison High in Huntington Beach, Calif. She has collegiate coaching experience at Loyola Marymount and Southern Utah.