When the No. 18 Ducks took the floor for the first time this season, the aspect of familiarity wasn’t apparent. Aside from four players, the roster had been filled with six new transfers, all of whom are expected to make noise this year.
This is the culture that Dana Altman has instilled since debuting in 2010, and it’s likely going to be the case for the near future. Short-term success has been the mantra for the past two seasons and it’s the very reason why the Ducks are ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2007.
“You see some of the talented players that we have on the perimeter that I think will really be able to get better and better as they play more together,” Altman said.
But is this the right structure for the Ducks moving forward?
Looking at the team now, it would be hard to be displeased with the level of veteran leadership along with the wide array of different skills and talents across the board having only played a couple of games. Each of the six new transfers has brought his fair share to the table and in many ways the ceiling for potential has been raised.
“We got a lot of new pieces, a lot of new guys that can do a lot of things,” senior Johnathan Loyd said. “So when we all come together, I’m excited to see what we can do.”
From sharp shooters in Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Jalil Abdul-Bassit to athletic forwards in Mike Moser and Elgin Cook, this Oregon team has seemingly filled the voids from last season and then some more, especially on the perimeter.
Damyean Dotson says Calliste and Abdul Bassit are excellent shooters.
“Just to know when you’re driving and you see one of them in the corner, you’re like 85 percent sure it’s going to go in,” Dotson said. “Everybody on our team this year can shoot, so when the ball come out of their hands, I’m like 85 percent sure that it’s going to go in.”
This could potentially be the most complete team the Ducks have been presented with since the ’07 Elite Eight squad and that has been a biproduct of the transfer culture.
“I think we’re about 10 guys deep,” Mike Moser said. “The special part about our group is that experience-wise, we’re about seven to eight guys deep. Right now, at least in this time period right now with one-and-dones, two-and-dones, you like that experiences and leadership on teams and I feel like we have an overabundance of it.”
The primary concern for this team lies within the boundaries of building chemistry. But with the help of sophomores Dotson and Dominic Artis, that very transition has also been a smooth one.
“I’ve been really impressed,” Moser said about Artis and Dotson. “They’re still really young guys, but they lead with such maturity and I think that’s been the biggest part of this whole transition for a lot of us new guys. This past month I think Damyean and DA definitely deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Junior college transfers bring one thing and it’s experience. Every transfer that has traveled to Oregon has played on various teams, but the bottom line is that the game of basketball doesn’t change regardless of where you go.
In many ways, this is looked at as a positive rather than a negative.
“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball,” Moser said. “These (veterans) are guys that have been playing college basketball for a while, so as opposed to having guys that have been doing it for a while, but I think the leadership and the experience probably outweighs all of that.”
Simply put, this is a crucial year for the Ducks. In addition to gaining national attention, Oregon will likely figure out by the end of the season if the strategy of recruiting transfers is the right mode of transportation for long-term success. The current mixture of second-year players and veteran transfers is one that cannot be matched in the coming years and it will either work or burn to the ground.
The Ducks are heading into a season where they are both nationally ranked and projected to finish fourth in what looks to be a four-team race in a re-emerging Pac-12 conference. A lot of new pieces have been added to the Oregon equation, and it will be a season-long evaluation for a potentially deep team.
“You want your team to have the expectation of competing for a conference championship, going to the NCAA tournament,” Altman said. “I’ve always said that you’d rather have expectations than have people not respect your program. I don’t know what the expectations are, but our expectations are to develop a team that competes and I think we have the young men to do that.”
For the first time in six years, expectations are running high at Oregon. Many believe that the ’07 Ducks should have won a national championship after dropping to the eventual champions in the Florida Gators, and it is a stage that they have been looking to get back to ever since.
While this Oregon team has a long way to go before they can compete for a national title, the opportunity for a memorable season is at hand. Transfers have brought Oregon basketball back to helm of the national spotlight, and it’s something that is beginning to trend across the nation. Oregon is changing the college basketball culture one transfer at a time.
Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim