It was a quiet night at Matthew Knight Arena last Wednesday. No screaming fans or pompous tunes by the band, just a dozen aspiring basketball players displaying their skills and trying out to be part of the Ducks program.
I was one of those players. Getting to shoot hoops on the coolest court in the NCAA was an experience of a lifetime and you better believe I told the whole family about how I made my first shot at Matthew Knight.
Aside from my own personal dream-come-true, I got a sneak peak at the talent that coach Dana Altman will have at his disposal this year as the Ducks look to return to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year.
The Ducks return five key players from last season and add several highly-touted recruits and transfers.
The returnees are led by seniors Elgin Cook and Dwayne Benjamin, who averaged 13 ppg and 8.4 ppg, respectively, last season.
With long wingspans to clog passing lanes and throw down powerful dunks in transition, these two players will set the tone for Oregon this season.
After playing alongside Andrew Wiggins for Team Canada in the recent Pan American Games, Dillon Brooks returns to the Ducks for his sophomore season.
Brooks earned Pac-12 all-Freshman honors after averaging 11.5 ppg and starting all but two games. His slashing ability at 6’6 will cause countless mismatches for opposing defenses.
Despite the talented corps of returning players, the Duck will no doubt miss Joseph Young’s scoring ability and leadership, which has found a new home in Indianapolis.
Looking to fill Young’s shoes is dynamic prep scorer Tyler Dorsey. The California high school Player of the Year in 2014-15, Dorsey averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds per game his senior season.
Two Canadian transfers will also bolster Oregon’s lineup this year.
Dylan Ennis, a graduate transfer point guard from Villanova, will bring the toughness of Big East basketball to Eugene.
The second addition is reigning Junior College Player of the Year, Chris Boucher, a 6’10 forward who made his way to Eugene via Northwest College in Wyoming.
When asked about adjusting to life without Young, last season’s Pac-12 Player of the Year, Altman was confident. “I think we’ll be balanced. On any given night, I think we have five or six guys that could potentially be double-digit scorers … I think we’ll score some points.”
Echoing coach Altman’s comments, the Duck roster is certainly balanced and ready to contend in the Pac-12. Hopefully Oregon’s preseason 4th-place media vote will serve as motivation to compete in a conference that seems wide open with Arizona’s heavy depletion via the NBA Draft.
As tryouts came to a close and the real players took my place, it was evident that the Ducks are a team to be feared this season. The roster is full of athleticism, with a good blend of veteran savvy and young hunger.
In case you were wondering if I made the basketball team, I’ll just assume coach Altman lost my phone number.
Top photo from Ryan Kang