Oregon Basketball Making the Most of Their Seasons

Alex Nordstrand Editorials 6 Comments

Basketball season is officially in full swing, and it sure is a great thing. Albeit a little bumpy at times, it’s happening. Through schedule changes and postponements, the season goes on, and we have another fun and exciting set of Oregon Men’s and Women’s teams to watch and root on as we bring in the New Year.

Watching these two teams get their season underway has left me extremely optimistic for what this season could be. These teams are deep, talented, they play hard and they play for each other. In what is undoubtedly a difficult season, they seem to be having fun, and I sure am having fun watching them.

Men Off to a Rare Hot Start

In typical Dana Altman fashion, he has employed a handful of newcomers to this years rotation, all of whom have already begun to make major contributions to this year’s team. From the hustle plays of Erik Williams Jr. and LJ Figueroa, the hard nosed attitude of Amauri Hardy, to the explosiveness of Jalen Terry, the cog that makes the engine run is Eugene Omoruyi.

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Eugene Omoruyi has been excellent scoring around the basket.

Omoruyi is the definition of versatility, and the near perfect player in Altman’s system. At 6’6″ 235, he has the size and strength to battle with opponents in the post, but also the athleticism and quickness to play on the outside as a wing or even a big guard. The Ducks are running their offense through him, and having great success doing so.

He is most effective in the post as both a scorer and a passer. His go to moves are a back down fade away jumper, and a quick spin move to the baseline for a lay up. Because of his dominance in the post, teams are being forced to double team him, leaving shooters and cutters open for easy baskets.

Generally, Altman’s teams struggle out of the gate, not hitting their stride until PAC-12 play, but this group seems to be finding it’s groove much more quickly this season. The biggest thing I am seeing from this team early on, and one of the reasons for the improved success, is the ball movement. This group is sharing the ball, and making plays for their teammates much better than teams in years past.

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The Ducks length has given teams problems.

There is no doubt that the unfortunate injury to N’Faly Dante, who tore his ACL, was a major blow, as the Ducks are now pretty thin on the front line. They are however, able to make up for it with the versatility their length brings on the wings.  Even with Dante in the fold, their best lineup was with Hardy, Chris Duarte, Williams Jr., Figueroa and Omoruyi.

When Will Richardson returns, he will replace Hardy in that lineup, making all five players on the court 6’5″ to 6’6″, which creates so many problems for opposing teams. Offensively, all five can handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter. Defensively, they can switch one through five causing havoc and mismatches for opposing teams.

Lady Ducks Haven’t Skipped a Beat

Kelly Graves took a page out of Altman’s book this year, as he’s had to work in eight new players to the team’s rotation. Even with this new look squad, our Lady Ducks have just kept on rolling. That is a credit to both Graves’ and his staff’s ability to coach and get their teams ready, but also the overall talent this team has.

There has been obvious instant impact from the five incoming freshman highlighted by the explosive play of Te Hina Paopao, who looks to be a star in the making. There’s also the streaky Taylor Mikesell, who can offer instant offense, as well as the steady play of senior forward Erin Boley, who has expanded her game to more than just a spot up three point shooter. Boley and Mikesell are complemented well by the dominant size and skillset of Nyara Sabally and Sedona Prince, who so far have given opposing teams fits down low.

This team is one of the most well constructed teams I have seen, on the Men’s or Women’s side. They have depth, athleticism, shooting ability, size and obviously talent. The schedule will more than certainly start to ramp up as they continue to get into conference play, as the PAC-12 is far and away the most talented conference in the country.

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Paopao is going to be a great one for the Lady Ducks.

There will undoubtedly be hiccups along the way, and some tough losses. But as this team continues to grow, and gain experience, the sky is truly the limit, and I am not sure if there is a more talented team in the country. Which is truly remarkable considering they lost three players taken in the top 8 of the WNBA draft.

This is an exciting time to be an Oregon Basketball fan for both the Men’s and Women’s teams. The adjective I keep going back to is fun. They are just fun teams to watch and I am looking forward to seeing how far they can go in this crazy season. And boy am I just thankful to be able to watch any Oregon basketball at all!

Go Ducks!

Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon
Top photo by Gary Breedlove

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

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ICamel

Men – Keep your eyes on Figueora. He has a nose for the ball! 2nd on team stats in both rebounding and steals.

Women – Boley has developed a mid range jumper that defenders have to contend with if they try to close out on her perimeter shot.

duckcardinal

Alex – Lok Wur has looked mechanical and a step slow in his limited showings so far. Seems he’s still thinking and not just reacting. Having had a whole season of healthy scout team practice I had expected him to be better adapted at this point. Any thoughts on his progress / upside at this point? With Dante down, are he and Lawson likely to get more time in the post against teams with real size in the front court?

Kepnang is seen as tall, large, and athletic, but unpolished. I’d expect him to look on defense like Dante did last year B4 injury – which was promising, but raw and unreliable during crunch time. And Franck’s offensive game is not seen as being as developed as N’Faley was last year, so his minutes may also be limited from that aspect.

On the plus side, Williams is long, with quick hops, and Eugene O is thick and savvy, but both are 6’6″, and neither is going to be able to neutralize a skilled 7 footer, of which there are several in the league this year. Is Dana going to have to recreate an early John Wooten team of no true center that presses nearly the entire game with waves of mid-sized players? With Estrada and Richardson coming fully online in January to bolster depth, will this be our late season game plan for the men?

30Duck

Alex, the Lady Ducks were very fortunate in getting to experience that, “good loss” to WSU, without actually losing! Graves was provided the opportunity to give his young team a look at what happens when they aren’t playing their A game.
For some reason they weren’t. Last season the Lady Ducks did suffer the “good loss” @ ASU, and it galvanized the team for the rest of the season. Maybe the WSU game will do the same for the team this season.

The Men are off to a great start, and as you observed, are playing better earlier than Altman’s teams usually do. A lot of that is due to Omoruyi. The Ducks haven’t had a go to guy in the post like him under Altman since Joevan Catron in 2010-11.

duckcardinal

It’s encouraging that a couple of the true freshmen not named Te Hina have stepped up in the last couple games to help avoid the ‘good loss’ situation.

BigDucksFan

Alex, you are giving us some optimistic words in this crazy year. All is looking good on the Duck home front.