Shake off those uncertainties about the off-season and confusion about the identity of our Oregon men’s basketball team. It’s time to meet your 2014 Oregon Ducks freshman class. This year has ushered in four new freshmen: Jordan Bell, Casey Benson, Ahmaad Rorie and Dillon Brooks – all rookie standouts seeking to help seniors Joseph Young and Elgin Cook accomplish big things. And while they may be young, these fabulous four can play!
It’s a whole new season and the Ducks have jumped out to a 2-0 start. With some early hurdles beginning Friday against Toledo at Matthew Knight Arena, these young men will get the chance to show fans on the national stage what they can do. But it won’t be easy. Head coach Dana Altman expressed his concerns today in a meeting with the press regarding the lack of experience on his team, namely that they will have to play more physical against teams such as Toledo and VCU.
I asked Altman about any adjustments he thought he needed to make in preparation for Toledo, and inquired about the primary focus of this week’s practices.”We’re going to have to play more physical, our guys have to get ready for that,” Altman said. “Other than that, we don’t do the things we’re doing right now well enough to make adjustments.” Altman has been candid and honest about his team’s weaknesses, but he believes in the ability of every one of his newcomers.
This 6’1″ guard from Tacoma, WA brings some much-needed speed to the position. He’s a great shooter and can rebound the ball, putting up five rebounds against Detroit on Monday. With Young as the lead scorer, Rorie brings depth to the position this year. Young has said that he feels like a mentor to the newcomers, and Rorie should benefit from Young’s experience. When Young wasn’t shooting well in the first half against Detroit, Rorie was able to contribute offensively, helping the Ducks maintain a tie going to into halftime.
This fiery, small forward was third in scoring for the Ducks Monday night against Detroit, adding 14 points. He shot 50% from the field and behind the arc, providing much-needed scoring consistency should Young or Cook struggle. Brooks also likes to get after the ball, putting up two blocks, a steal, and two rebounds. This young man is a very exciting member of this freshman class and will be fun to watch as the Ducks move through the season.
While he didn’t score in the game against Detroit, he chalked up 13 points against Coppin St. and is a high-energy player that fits well in this Ducks offensive scheme. Again, he adds to the lack of depth at the guard position for the Ducks, and should see lots of valuable minutes in the games ahead.
If Oregon has a “Beast Mode,” it’s this guy. This freshman forward led the team in rebounds with nine against Detroit, with four assists and six points. This is the type of player that Oregon needs right now. He has shown a great ability to get after the ball, rebounding out of his area, and providing the Ducks with second chance shooting opportunities. In the second half against Detroit, Oregon had 11 points from second chance shots. Detroit had none. The ability for Bell to contribute with rebounds is going to be a huge asset this year.
There is no doubt this team is still developing its identity, but in a basketball season, there is ample time for a team to develop. Each game provides different obstacles to overcome and new opportunities for players to step up and make plays. This tough non-conference start will only help the Ducks get better prepared for conference play. The Ducks do not lack talent, energy or dynamic scoring ability. The focus for this new group of players moving forward is to be more physical on rebounds and the defensive side of the ball.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck