Of the 40 or so club sports teams at the University of Oregon, you’d think that basketball would be one of the more established programs.
In just its second season, the Oregon men’s club basketball team is in full swing and experiencing great success, both on and off the court.
“I’m extremely proud to see where it has come from,” said senior Karel Calcote. “I’m excited to see the future of the program.”
In spring 2015, Blake Kingsley founded the team. A manager for the Oregon women’s basketball team, Kingsley seized the opportunity.
“He was surprised we didn’t have a club basketball team,” said Calcote. “A lot of people have tried before, but it’s a process.”
The Ducks currently sit at 7-2, after going 15-3 in their inaugural campaign. They have played club teams from schools such as Reed College and Mount Hood Community College, as well as participating in games against Lane Community College, the ISA Ducks 2K16 Tournament and Northwest Christian Alumni.
“This is a group that works extremely hard and knows that we’re going to compete at a high level,” said sophomore Nick Cavaleri. “It’s important to represent our school in that way.”
Last spring, the club basketball team hosted a regional tournament at the Student Recreation Center. Playing in the championship game of the tournament, the Ducks gave Gonzaga, the defending champions, all they could handle in a 57-47 loss. Jordan Holt, now a senior on the team, was part of the standing-room-only crowd, and was immediately interested in learning more about the team.
“I came and watched it and it looked like something I wanted to do,” said Holt.
The leaders promote their activity on Instagram and Facebook. They also recruit players at the rec Center, as they did with Cavaleri last year.
This year, around 30 players showed up to tryouts. Cuts were difficult with plenty of competition. In addition to the skill set needed to compete at a high level, there are many other factors to consider, such as attitude, work ethic and commitment.
“We have to get guys that are mature enough to listen and understand what we’re trying to do,” said Holt.
They’re looking to evolve their competitive and winning culture, while at the same time having fun being around one another.
“I think we know when to focus,” said Calcote. “But when we’re traveling, on the bus or wherever, we’re always messing around with each other and having fun.”
Calcote and his teammates understand that there are elite players and teammates out there.
“We knew that we would be able to put together a talented team,” said Calcote. “There are a lot of players who could have played at a smaller school but wanted that big school experience.”
The Ducks’ biggest test of the season comes this weekend, when they travel to Spokane to take part in the Eastern Washington University Tournament.
“I think we’re deeper than last year’s team,” said Calcote. “We’ll have a better understanding of where we stand [following the tournament].”
With immediate success on the court and an increasing presence throughout the university, expect to see the club men’s basketball team to continue its upward trend and become a staple of the Oregon club sports program.
“If you really want to play basketball, it’s not anything too crazy,” said Holt. “It’s a great opportunity to play college ball.”
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich.