No one in football noticed that Chip Kelly was developing a dominating program at the University of Oregon until it was too late. Now everyone is playing catch up.
Could the same be happening with the Oregon men's basketball program?
Quietly, going into his second year leading the Ducks, head coach Dana Altman has a team for 2011-12 that has the makings of doing some damage in the Pac-12 and can easily make the NCAA tournament.
The 2011 recruiting class is loaded with players who can have an impact. At the top of the list is Jabari Brown, out of Oakland, California. Everyone wanted Brown, but to the surprise of a lot of people he chose the Oregon Ducks.
Brown most likely will play a shooting guard position for the Ducks, but he is so good at 6'3', he could play the point if needed and he also in a league like the Pac-12, which does not have a lot of big players, could move into the small forward position. The big problem for the Ducks could be how long Brown will stay at Oregon, barring injuries he is a sure fire NBA player.
Brown will join incoming recruits, Brett Kingma, Bruce Barron, Austin Keumper and Carlos Emory.
Of this group, the real surprise player could be Kingma. He can shoot with success from anywhere on the court and has an uncanny ability to get quality shots. Kingma comes from the basketball rich Seattle, Washington area, so he knows how to play already against the tough competition he will face in Pac-12 play.
As with every team, new recruits can't make the total difference, the Ducks have some fine players returning in E.J. Singler, Jeremy Jacob and a player who I think has the potential to have a break out year, sophomore point guard Jonathan Lloyd. Singler has improved greatly in each of his two years with the Ducks and if he continues in his final two years, he will become an outstanding Pac-12 player. We all know he knows the game, coming from a great athletic family, his brother Kyle was superb playing for Duke for four years and will be selected in the NBA draft later this month.
A missing piece to fill from last year's 21 win team for Ducks is finding a replacement for the capable Joevan Catron. Hitting the jackpot may just have ocurred in the last two weeks, as it was announced that star Louisiana Tech forward Olu Ashaolu will transfer to Oregon and will be able to play immediately as he graduated academically from La. Tech in February.
Ashaolu, comes to Oregon with outstanding credentials. At Louisiana Tech he average 14 points and 9 rebounds per game and despite withdrawing from the NBA draft, three different NBA scouts told me recently he would have probably been a middle second round pick. That tells a lot of people about the determination of a player, he wants to improve and is willing to work to do so. He will also join another good transfer from Minnesota, in Devoe Joseph, who sat out last year and is ready to make a major contribution.
Oregon in 2011 went from the best arena in the Pac-12 in Mac Court to the best arena in the Pac-12 in Matt Knight Arena. It is obvious, after some head scratching they picked a pretty darn good coach to replace Ernie Kent in Dana Altman. The guy won 21 games with at best average talent last year. The pieces are there to have once again a great home court advantage.
Like so many other teams on the west coast, Oregon does not have a true big man who can make a difference, but they do have talent and depth in every other position for 2011-12. Games are not won on paper or predictions, but don't be surprised if the Ducks finish second in the Pac-12 this coming year, go to the NCAA tournament and like Oregon football, sneak up on everyone.
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