Duck Season: With the injury to Dylan Ennis, who will step up to fill his shoes?
**Editor’s Note: This story will appear in the Emerald’s Duck Season magazine, a preview of the Oregon men’s basketball team’s season. It is scheduled to be available for free at all Duck Store locations in Eugene Nov. 19.
With the loss of guard Joseph Young, a do-everything type of player, and Jalil Abdul-Bassit, a three-point specialist, to graduation, the expected arrival of transfer Dylan Ennis was supposed to provide the Oregon backcourt with some much needed scoring and maturity.
While Ennis, who averaged 9.9 points for Villanova last year, is in Eugene and donning the green and yellow of the Ducks, coaches and players are going to have to wait before they see what kind of presence he gives Oregon on the court. According to head coach Dana Altman, Ennis is out for at least the month of November, and possibly all of December, with a left foot injury.
Ennis, who was expected to be the Oregon’s starting point guard, may be back in time for Pac-12 play, but that doesn’t help the Ducks and the brutal non-conference schedule that starts their season.
With Ennis’ injury, the most pressing question for the Ducks entering the season is who will step in and replace him until he returns.
The most conventional approach would be to play a committee of players until Ennis returns, and with Oregon’s depth at the guard spot this year, that seems the most likely option. The Ducks have three players who could all see action at the point guard spot, with returning sophomore Casey Benson the most likely player to receive the bulk of Ennis’ minutes.
Five-star guard Tyler Dorsey is penciled in as Oregon’s starting shooting guard and has already been drawing raves for his stellar scoring ability, but has no collegiate experience thus far. Fellow freshman guard Kendall Small will now be seeing the court more with Ennis out, probably quicker than Altman would’ve liked.
Those three players will combine to absorb most of the point guard duties left behind by Ennis, but if any of them struggle, expect Altman to rely on experience, with 6-foot-6 sophomore Dillon Brooks and 6-foot-7 senior Dwayne Benjamin at the shooting guard spot.
The combination of those five players should help take care of the scoring, passing, defense and ball-handling that Ennis provides as a talented redshirt senior.
Where the Ducks will struggle with trying to fill Ennis’ void is in the department of experience and communication. Although he has yet to see time on the court, Ennis has been extremely vocal from the bench, constantly shouting out encouragement and corrections for his teammates.
Entering his third season in Eugene, redshirt senior Elgin Cook is the longest tenured Duck under Altman. He’s the player most familiar with Oregon’s style and schemes, so it will be on him to take on a vocal leadership role. The problem is that Cook isn’t the most vocal of guys, he’s more of a lead-by-example type.
Brooks seems the most logical player to take up the void left behind by Ennis because he’s expected to have a breakout sophomore season after averaging 11.5 points per game last year. Brooks poured in 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting in Oregon’s exhibition opener against Northwest Christian and will have a bigger offensive presence with Young gone and Ennis hurt.
Although he has yet to see the court for the Ducks, the injury to Ennis is one that could hurt Oregon in the early season going forward. While it’s nearly impossible to replace that play-making ability and experience with one player, the Ducks’ committee approach should pay dividends during their rough and tough non-conference schedule.
Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka
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