Leaving last season behind
For the Oregon men’s basketball team, Sunday’s exhibition game showed glimpses of what could be a greatly improved squad in comparison to the last seasons 8-23 overall finish.
And while the Ducks only beat Concordia University, their roster from top to bottom looks vastly better on both ends of the floor.
“When you play exhibition games, it isn’t so much to bury teams, it really isn’t,” head coach Ernie Kent said. “We do need to work on things, we do need to evaluate our guys and put them out on the floor and see what they can do.”
And after months of practicing against each other, Kent said Sunday’s game was much needed.
“It’s always good to play somebody else,” he said. “I think we were getting really tired of beating up on each other in practice.”
Overall Oregon had very little trouble getting any shot it wanted against a far weaker opponent, but the most promising factor in the contest was the depth of the Ducks roster. Kent’s starting five included senior Tajuan Porter and sophomore Teondre Williams at the guard positions with junior LeKendric Longmire and senior Joevan Catron at the forwards and sophomore transfer Jeremy Jacob at center.
The starting five played just over three minutes together before sophomore Matthew Humphrey and freshman Jamil Wilson checked in. From there, Wilson took over the game as he shot 4-of-5 from the field with three three-pointers, two rebounds and two steals in the first half.
One of the game’s more exciting plays featured a two-handed dunk from Wilson on an off-the-backboard pass from Porter on a fast break.
“When the play happened, someone got a steal and kicked it to TP,” Wilson said. “… I was just going to jog and let him lay it up, but he screamed ‘Come on, Jamil,’ so I had to run behind him.
I didn’t know what he had in mind, and then he just threw it off the glass. It felt pretty good — my first college dunk.”
The 6-foot-7-inch, 210-pound Wilson finished the game with a game-high 17 points, but more importantly showed that he could easily provide the perimeter scoring that the Ducks lacked last season outside of Porter.
Williams on the other hand, who recorded his first collegiate start, looked nothing short of remarkable after a rough freshman season. After the game, Williams explained that his return home during the summer, as well as his mother’s guidance, really helped him improve mentally heading into the fall.
“I was kind of struggling with school and basketball,” he said. “So I just refocused myself basically, and I came back with the mindset that I’m going to do better than I did last year.”
There’s no question that Williams appeared to be the Ducks’ most improved player from last year’s roster, as he finished the game with a career-high 12 points in just 13 minutes, while playing with a strong sense of belonging and confidence that was evidently lacking as a freshman.
“He has really, really done a nice job of just coming into his own,” Kent said. “He’s very coachable … He plays with poise. He really has bought in, and he’s starting to show
dividends right now.”
While Williams stands at 6-foot-4-inches, 200 pounds, he and Wilson have similar game styles and could be a very dangerous combo at the 3-guard, both offensively and defensively for Oregon. In practice, Williams even matches up with the much smaller and exceptionally faster Porter at the point guard position, which shows just how versatile of an athlete he truly can be.
Oregon will host its final exhibition game on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 6 p.m., as Lewis and Clark College visits McArthur Court.
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