Men's BasketballSports

Ducks improve physicality, talent level over offseason

Shawn Hatjes

Early Wednesday morning, Oregon head basketball coach Ernie Kent went on a bike ride to remind himself that basketball season is right around the corner. It had been raining the night before and he wanted to remind himself that when the Oregon weather turns, Duck
basketball has finally arrived.

“The last three weeks I’ve known it’s been getting close to basketball because I haven’t been sleeping,” Kent explained. “I’ve been waking up at 3:30 to 4:30 in the
morning and this morning was no exception.”

Kent has spent the early hours of the morning the last few months studying film and anxiously anticipating the arrival of the 2009-2010 basketball season. With 11 returning players and four new faces, the Ducks will look to bounce back from last year’s dismal 8-23 record overall.

“The improvement in terms of strength, you’re going to notice right away,” Kent said. “Which means we’re going to be a much more physical team.”

And hoping to add to the Ducks newfound physicality will be the four new additions to the Oregon roster with Malcolm Armstead, Jamil Wilson, Jeremy Jacob and E.J. Singler joining the squad.

Wilson, a 6-foot-7-inch, 209-pound small forward has the body and athleticism to contribute right away. He’s just trying to adjust to Division I basketball, but Wilson says that the old guys have helped him adjust and he’s already familiar with them.

“I came out here in the summer, so it’s not like I’m just meeting these guys for the first time,” Wilson said. “It’s a lot different and you can tell it right away with the guys
being a lot stronger than you. It’s way more competitive.”

Jacob, a sophomore transfer from Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., said that the team is focused on erasing the memory from last year, and although he wasn’t a part of the losing, he still felt it this summer.

“The team’s been getting together well,” Jacob said. “We really wanted to change the team from where it was last year.”

And whether or not the team changes starts and ends with the two mainstays of the last three years: Tajuan Porter and Joevan Catron. Both are seniors and looking to make sure that the embarrassment they felt last year doesn’t repeat itself. When asked whether or not he was able to forget, Catron said that he probably will never forget 2008-2009.

“I didn’t get it out of my system. It’s still in my heart,” Catron said. “That was one of the worst seasons I’ve ever had in my life. Now I’m just trying to redeem myself.”

Something like that is hard to get past, but both Kent and Porter mentioned that the hardship has forged a team that is closer because they went through it together.

“We’re a family. We stick together and treat each other like brothers,” Porter said. “Going through those stages last year and grinding out the season and not being where we wanted to be brought us closer together. Especially this summer. We didn’t want to repeat
what happened.”

Porter talked about his summer and how he worked on his penetration game, but mostly about how he wouldn’t leave the gym until he hit at least 500 shots, sometimes 1000. He would do that four times a week.

“I tried to work on all aspects of my game, though,” Porter said. ” I didn’t try to pinpoint just one.”

Dedication like Porter’s impressed Kent when the group finally got together. The overall team strength is a big positive in the coach’s eyes and he’s excited to see just how much
they’ve grown.

Catron also touched on the improvement in the weight room, but he said as a senior the only thing he really wants to see is that the team gets better week by week and has something to show for it.

“We just have to improve. That’s all I can really ask for,” he said. “We just have to improve in every aspect of the game.”

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