After two exhibition games for Oregon basketball, the Ducks are preparing to create an offensive storm in the Pac-12 this year. The 2017-18 Ducks are basically a new team that returns just four players from last season.
Aside from starting point guard Payton Pritchard, only Roman Sorkin and Keith Smith saw playing time last year. Evan Gross is back for his redshirt senior season, as he will occupy the 12th man spot on the roster.
For this Oregon team, it’s all about chemistry. How quick will they find it? If you ask the players, it’s already there. Head coach Dana Altman understands every team takes time to adjust and develop together. Even the 33-6 team struggled at the start.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Pritchard finished 10-for-13 from the field vs Northwest Christian, including 4-of-5 from downtown Eugene. The new scoring role should be expected from the sophomore. He had a game-high 25 points, four rebounds and four assists.
“Because of his experience, we want him to score more than he did a year ago,” said Altman. “He’ll take more shots. He’ll be more aggressive offensively.”
Elijah Brown had 22 points on another efficient night from the floor. Incredibly, he shot 80 percent from the field (8-of-10). The son of the Golden State Warrior assistant coach Mike Brown shot 4-of-5 (80 percent) from deep, alongside providing six helpers.
“He’s the one proven scorer we have,” said Altman after the game on Monday evening. “Elijah offensively, every time he shoots you feel pretty good. He’s been doing that in practice, also.”
This season, Altman will look for Pritchard (25) and E. Brown (22) to lead the team in scoring like they did on Monday vs NCU. The rest of the team will follow suit and some nights will belong to other stars like Victor Bailey Jr. vs Idaho.
Regardless, the offense should revolve around the guards. Once Kenny Wooten gets comfortable in the post, his offensive game could start to elevate. For the time being, look for the veterans to provide a scoring boost.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Troy Brown Jr. has been working hard to adjust to the college game as a true freshman. He’s so young, but the 5-star commit is incredibly talented and mature beyond his years.
Elijah has noticed the maturity of his freshmen teammates in general. He believes these young Ducks are further along than he was during his freshman season at Butler.
“Obviously, Troy is a special talent,” Brown said. “One thing I noticed with all our freshmen (Kenny, Abu, Troy, VJ, Will) there is still that gap between high school and college that you have to learn. You got to adjust to the speed of the game, physicality of the game.”
The 5-star kid Troy Brown Jr. exhibited his skills on Monday in front of the home fans. He led the way with a game-high nine assists, five points and four boards.
“As far as his attention to detail, he wants to be good,” Elijah Brown stated after the game. “So that part doesn’t worry me, it’s still early in his career. But the one thing that’s encouraging, putting myself back in their shoes four years from today, they are just so much more mature. They’re willing to learn and know what it takes to be good. It’s going to come, they’re freshmen.”
Brown continues to get acclimated to the college game, but you can tell he’s special.
“Troy Brown’s nine assists, I thought he was trying to make plays for others,” said Altman after the win. “You get a lead and you want guys to move the ball. I think we can have a good offensive team if we make shots for each other. Troy getting nine assists is a big start.”
Everyone around Oregon can see that this kid has the “it” factor. It’s just a matter of time before it all comes together on a national stage. As for the Las Vegas product, he’s taking it all in stride.
“We get along with each other so well off the court, so it makes it so much easier,” said Troy Brown after the victory. “It’s coming along pretty nice. You kind of know who can do what with our personnel on the court. We have guys that can do different things.”
Unfortunately, it looks like redshirt freshman M.J. Cage is on his way out of the Oregon program. According to the UO basketball department, Cage is undecided on whether he will pursue his career at another institution.
As you know, his father Michael Cage played in the NBA from 1984-2000. His son led the legendary Mater Dei in high school, but apparently wants to head in a new direction after sitting out his true freshman season with the Ducks in 2016-17.
He’s a really good kid from a great family. It’s sad to see, but it’s completely MJ’s decision. If it’s what he wants, we can only respect it and wish him the best.
The next nine days at ATQ will be jam-packed with Oregon basketball prep, including player profiles, predictions, previews, interviews, breakdowns and a few history lessons. Every day, we will have something new as we count you down to opening night.
Ready or not? Oregon basketball is set to return soon. The regular season gets underway at Matthew Knight Arena on Friday, November 10 against Coppin State. You can catch opening night on the Pac-12 Network at 9:00 p.m. local time.