The Ducks will officially start the 2012-2013 basketball season Saturday against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in the first game of the Global Sports Classic. Oregon will be looking to improve upon their 24-10 season last year, but there will be difficulties with the nine newcomers on the team.
Despite the challenges, Oregon Basketball Head Coach Dana Altman was confident with the newcomers going into the Ducks’ first game.
“My expectations were pretty high for all of them,” said Altman. “We sure have guys that have made tremendous progress.”
Altman will rely heavily on senior E.J. Singler to provide on court leadership this season and guide the newcomers.
“I like to have him or Jonny on the floor at anytime,” explained Altman. “Those two have been around the longest and having one of them on the floor gives us a little sense of comfort on the sidelines because they have a feel of what we want.”
That’s been tough for Singler so far though. Singler has been battling knee tendinitis and although he played in the Ducks second game, he has been limited in practice.
The newcomers will play in their first official game after winning both exhibition games against division 2 schools Concordia and Southwestern Oklahoma St last week.
“I think they’re getting a better feel for what we anticipate, what we want for intensity and so forth.” Altman said.
Intensity on the defensive side is something the Ducks have shown, averaging 13 steals and 9 blocks in the two exhibition games.
Much of that intensity has come from big men Waverly Austin and Tony Woods. Woods set the school record for most blocks in a season last year with 55.
Woods and Austin will give the Ducks flexibility in how the Ducks play defense, but Altman stressed that the Ducks can’t use the Ducks big men as a crutch.
“Having those two guys there to erase some mistakes is good. I just hope our guys don’t use that as a crutch and depend on it too much,” said Altman. “They’ve gotta do a better job fighting the dribble, we’re not fighting the dribble nearly well enough. That’s something that’s gotta change.”
Coming into the season Altman said he will look for the Ducks to define their roles and look at different combinations to figure out which lineup works best.
“I think our lineup will change a lot in the next six weeks as we define roles, and look at different combinations. We’re not really sure what we have and it will take some sorting here in the first six weeks to kind of get a feel for it.”
That process will start against Northern Arizona and despite the Lumberjacks 5-24 record last season, Altman said first year Head Coach Jack Murphy has some things to look forward to.
“They’ve got a couple guys who can really score, they’ve gotta a lot of vets, they’ve got a lot of guys back. Even though they didn’t have a lot of success, they are an experienced group.”
Leading the Lumberjacks will be senior guard Gabe Rogers, who averaged 27.5 points in the two exhibitions games this season.