Club basketball getting off the ground at the UO
Of the wide variety of club sports at Oregon, one is missing from the picture.
It won’t be that way for long.
This fall, a men’s club basketball team will officially debut at Oregon, but the planning to get it off the ground had already been in the works. Blake Kingsley, the founding president and future coach, is a team manager for the Oregon women’s basketball team. He said the opportunity to play organized basketball once again has generated a lot of buzz.
“I thought that all major schools would have club basketball,” freshman Cale Popovich said. “I was very surprised.”
Sophomore Max Graves, who transferred to Oregon after a year at Santa Clara, was the first to spearhead the idea. His friends at Santa Clara started a club basketball team, so he knew it was something he wanted to bring to UO. Graves handed over the main role to Kingsley because he didn’t have enough time to dedicate to the logistics, but Graves will play for the team next year.
“I think we have a very large talent base here,” Graves said. “I’ve seen some of those other teams play, and I think we have guys that can be just as good. … We have such awesome sports at school here. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to compete.”
For many players like Popovich, the idea of playing once again, after rigorous high school practicing, sounds enticing. Popovich is a regular, playing pick up games with friends, but knows a team environment will help support him and help improve.
Kingsley has begun juggling potential practice times, travel costs and uniforms as he also recruits players he sees at the REC center who might be interested in playing. He said his experience as a team manager has helped him paint a picture of what it takes to be dedicated every day.
“I think one of the selling points for the team is that we’re here to win games,” Kingsley said. “We’re here to build a program and compete at a high level. That’s exciting to kids.”
Junior Joey Euphrat knew he wanted to play basketball in college, but when he didn’t make the cut for the Ducks’ NCAA team, he couldn’t find an alternative. Euphrat enjoyed intramurals, but wanted to find a team to train with, both on and off the court.
“It’s awesome,” Euphrat said. “It’ll be a great addition to the university.”
As a leader on the team next year, Euphrat wants to instill an inclusive culture.
“I think the willingness to be open is key,” Euphrat said. “To be open to anyone, any basketball player that wants to hoop, because this should be fun. It’ll be a great experience.”
Next year will be Kingsley’s final at Oregon, but he hopes to find players who can continue down the road. The team will likely play other schools in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon is set to host the regional tournament next year.
“Especially being a freshman, too. If I could be in it for three years,” Popovich said, “down the road and build it up, to be its first couple be involved would be kind of cool.”
Follow Jonathan Hawthorne on Twitter @Jon_Hawthorne
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