I don’t know how he does it, but Dana Altman has done it again. After losing three of five starters to graduation, this pragmatic coach has somehow found a way to piece together a team. A team which is off to one of the best starts in Oregon basketball history. The Ducks have set a torrid pace, winning their first seven games in impressive fashion, all without their leader and star point guard Dominic Artis. The unavailability of Artis is the result of a nine-game suspension that followed when the University’s self-reported NCAA violation of selling team issued shoes. Two more games and Artis, along with teammate Ben Carter, should be able to return.
Why the success after losing glue guys E.J. Singler and Arsalan Kazemi? The answer: transfers.
Lead by Mike Moser and Joseph Young, the newly added Oregon transfers have not only sparked this early season success, but have taken the reigns. It seems as if the Ducks have not lost a beat since last year’s Sweet 16 appearance.
Their first task of the season? A primetime game in South Korea against Big East powerhouse Georgetown, who just last season was a No. 2 seed in the tournament. This seemed like a daunting task without Artis, what with eight newcomers who had yet to play a game together. Altman however, had his team ready to play as the Ducks pulled out an impressive opening win – led by who else but transfers, including Moser, Young and Jason Calliste. This opening game showed the depth of the Ducks’ roster, as Altman sent waves of players into game. From then on, the Ducks seemed to find their identity and continued rolling through their schedule.
Paced by Young’s 20.3 points per game average, he and three other transfers (Moser, Caliste, Elgin Cook) lead the Ducks in scoring. All four average double-digit points per game and all are shooting above 50% from the field. This type of production has mitigated the loss of last year’s top scorers E.J Singler and Carlos Emory. Additionally, having multiple players in double-digits has given the Ducks several ways to attack the rim, making them difficult to defend.
While the transfers are rising, returning players are still adjusting to the new team. Damyean Dotson, who last year exploded onto the scene as a freshman, seems to have taken a back seat in the offense. Others such as Waverly Austin and Johnathan Loyd have had a nice start to the season but also seem to be playing second fiddle to transfers in their respective positions.
The early success of the transfers is encouraging, as one would expect the returners with experience to lead the way. It is only a matter of time until Dotson, who was named to the PAC-12 all-freshman team last year, breaks out of his slump and returns to form. As for even more depth, Artis and Carter should be eligible to play December 17th against UC Irvine.
Coach Altman has his team running like a well-oiled machine. Young has been touted as one of the best pure scorers in the country while Moser and Calliste provide much need experience and leadership. Combine this with Dotson’s potential and Artis’ pending return, and the Ducks look in good shape to make a deep run in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournaments. Based on the way they’ve been playing, this team has a chance to go even deeper into the tourney than last year.
They will be tested their next two games by undefeated Ole Miss and once-beaten Illinois. The Rebels will provide a special challenge on defense for the Ducks with sharp-shooter Marshall Henderson, while the Illini are led be Tracy Abrams and Rayvonte Rice.
The next two games will tell us a lot. Win them, and it will tell the country a lot.