Oregon welcomes back Dylan Ennis, prepares for Pac-12 play
Tonight, Oregon will wrap up its non-conference schedule against Western Oregon. Then, next Sunday, it will open Pac-12 play in Corvallis against Gary Payton II (16.5 points per game) and in-state rival Oregon State.
“The intensity there will be pretty good,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said.
Most importantly though, Villanova graduate transfer Dylan Ennis will finally make his return to the hardwood after missing the first 12 games with an injured foot. Altman confirmed on the weekly Pac-12 teleconference call that Ennis will indeed make his season debut tonight, but will be eased in slowly for the next couple weeks.
“He’s been out for eight weeks, so we will bring him (back) very slowly,” Altman said. “He has practiced the last couple days — not full go — but in and out of drills, so we would anticipate that he plays a few minutes tonight. But we definitely will not play him a lot here for the first couple weeks until he gets his conditioning back, gets a little bit of the rust off.”
Injuries have limited, and to an extent, plagued this team for the first half of the season, but it hasn’t been used as a crutch. Altman has always preached improving in every facet of the game and that is exactly what he intends to see from his team moving forward, especially with a fully healthy roster.
“We haven’t progressed as quickly as we would like,” Altman said. “We’ve had a lot of different combinations and guys playing a lot of different positions. As a whole we’ve made progress. I still think there is a lot this team can accomplish and we can get a heck of a lot better. It’s a work in progress. I like the direction we’re headed in, but we got a long ways to go.”
With Ennis back in the rotation, Oregon won’t have anything more setting them back. Newcomers Tyler Dorsey (14.0 points per game) and Chris Boucher (11.9 points per game) have, in the meantime, filled the voids of injury very nicely, but there is little doubt this team has been itching to take the next step with conference play in sight.
“The players sense that the next 18 games are something a little different,” Altman said. “The crowds are a little different. It will be a grind. This conference is very balanced: a lot of solid teams trying to get better. I think it will be a very competitive, very intense conference season.”
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim
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