Men's BasketballSports

A brand new day

Getting only two wins in Pacific-10 Conference play usually doesn’t inspire confidence for a quick turnaround in the next season, but that’s exactly what Oregon Duck men’s basketball players say you should expect.

And it’s not just a matter of, as the old adage goes, when you’re at the bottom, the only way to go is up. The team cites a year of maturity and a renewed work ethic as the two biggest reasons they won’t finish last, or even eighth next year in conference play.

“It’s not at all being at the bottom of the barrel,” senior forward Joevan Catron said. “The feeling for us is that we were very young last year. The young guys were feeling out their first season. Now they know what to expect and can produce.”

Sophomore guard Garrett Sim, who started in 26 games as a freshman, said the trial by fire will make everyone better players.

“I think it was a good experience,” he said. “I learned a lot playing in the Pac-10. The biggest thing is that we know what’s coming for us in terms of the speed of the game, how long the season and things like that. Whether it’s strength or ball handling, we know what to work on.”

But that’s not to say the 8-23 season wasn’t a huge disappointment for the Ducks. Sophomore Michael Dunigan, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last year, said the losing was on an unprecedented scale.

“We didn’t come here to lose,” he said. “It was hard. I’ve never lost that many games before in my life.”

“It was tough,” Catron agreed. “We played hard every night. It wasn’t like we weren’t trying out there.”

Catron took it a little more personally than most, though. He felt he struggled below his potential, and although he averaged 7.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, head coach Ernie Kent had expected him to become a big-time scorer for the team.

“I’ve never dealt with that kind of adversity,” Catron said. “I struggled with my confidence. I know I can produce way better than I did last season.”

“It wasn’t easy for anybody,” Sim said. “For the players or the coaches, it wasn’t a good situation. I never want to go through that again. We’re using it as motivation for next year.”

Now the whole team is back on the horse, working out and playing more than ever so the 2009-10 season is one to remember. The men are lifting and running four days a week and playing basketball every day.

Sim personally is working on just becoming a stronger player, as his 175 pounds put him a little bit on the light side.

“When you first come in you really don’t know what to work on,” Sim said. “But after being in the conference for a year it becomes apparent where you need to improve on. I’m working on my strength and overall leadership on the court.”

Dunigan says there’s a renewed purpose in the air.

“We come into the lifting everyday with a grudge on our shoulders,” he said. “We had an early off-season so we hit it right away. I’ve been working on my face-up game and conditioning. We want to try and not lose another game. It’s Tajuan (Porter) and Joevan’s senior season.”

And although winning every game would be almost unthinkable after a 2-16 record in conference, it’s the type of attitude the team has been fostering to just forget about the 2008-09 season and focus on the next one.

“The summer has been great,” Catron said. “We’re looking good. We should be an exciting team. We have size, speed, shooters, runners and depth to make a few teams scared to play us.”

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