E.J. Singler doesn’t come from an average background. In his immediate family, you can find three other Division I athletes. His father, Ed, was a quarterback for Oregon State. His mom, Kris, played basketball for the Beavers. His brother Kyle had a brilliant career at Duke University and now plays for the Detroit Pistons. The list doesn’t stop there. Singler has a long list of NCAA athletes on both his mother’s and father’s sides. In a sense, he was destined to be a college athlete.
Over the course of his senior season, Singler has asserted himself as the undisputed leader of the Oregon men’s basketball team. He didn’t do this by telling everyone that he takes the reins now with Garrett Sim and Joevan Catron gone — he did it through his play in pressure situations.
It has become rare to see a game Singler doesn’t put his stamp on, and he does it in various ways. He doesn’t always do it by trying to score, either. Sometimes it’s an assist or an offensive rebound or forcing a turnover. Either way, down the stretch the Ducks look to Singler.
It would be easy to credit his knack for making the right play at the right time to whom he played against growing up, but Singler says it just developed naturally over the past four years.
“I’ve always been the kind of player that likes the ball in his hands in crunch time,” Singler said. “Now, as a senior, I think it’s kind of my role and what I have to do to help out team in crunch time. I’ve been through it the most. I know the players have confidence in me, and I know the coaches have confidence in me, and they want the ball in my hands down the stretch.”
Surely his ability to make heady plays in pressure moments has grown over the course of four seasons, but discounting his environment growing up might be a bit hasty.
“He grew up in a very athletic family,” Ed Singler, E.J.’s father, said. “He grew up in an environment that was very competitive, whether it was his brother or his cousins. I think his brother helped make him the competitor that he is today, but it wasn’t just Kyle. It was the people he hung around and the programs he was involved with.”
Each year, Singler has made it harder and harder for coaches to pull him off of the court. It isn’t that he puts up gaudy numbers — 11 points, five rebounds and three assist — but rather it’s his intangibles. Each year he has better grasped how to make the most appropriate play at the time. It is easy to see how much respect his coaches and teammates have for him because of the type of player that he is. His father said he saw the same progression over the four years he played at South Medford High School.
“He progressed each and every year,” Ed Singler said of his son. “By the time E.J. was a senior he was the leader, he had the most experience, he was game tested. Through the years that he had played varsity basketball and the players that he played with competitively, he was ready to take on that role. So the same is kind of true at Oregon. E.J. came on at Oregon much like he did at South Medford High School.”
It is easy to look at the Ducks and say that to this point they have overachieved, even with the recent three-game losing streak. They got much better play than expected out of freshman Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, but they’re a ranked team because of Singler.
“Oregon couldn’t have a better leader than E.J. Singler,” his father said. “He’s rock solid, he leads by example on and off the court and he is a great representative not only for the basketball program, but for the school.”