A mix of returning players and transfers warmed up for practice at Matthew Knight Area on Oct. 24, shooting, laughing, even singing. Among the group was transfer guard Joseph Young. But unlike every other player on the tree-designed floor, Young wasn’t eligible to play for the Ducks. The redshirt junior wasn’t the only one who appeared to be annoyed by this fact.
“Hopefully, he gets eligible,” redshirt senior Mike Moser, one of Oregon’s eight transfer players, said before that Thursday’s practice. “He’ll definitely be that factor for us.”
Senior guard Johnathan Loyd said he’d constantly pester Young, wondering when the Houston transfer would get his waiver cleared by the NCAA.
“I ask him every day, ‘What’s the word?’” Loyd said. “He’s like, ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow.’ I’m getting a little anxious because that’s a big piece. He’ll really help.”
Young wasn’t lying, at least not on that Thursday. The next day, Young was cleared to play immediately.
Young hasn’t just appeared in both of Oregon’s exhibition games — he’s been one of the Ducks’ best players, scoring more than 20 points and playing aggressive defense in both contests. He might be his harshest critic, as well.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Young said after the Northwest Christian game on Sunday, Oct. 27. “I’m trying to get better on defense, staying in front of my man. Tonight, it was just a game to see where we were at and we’ve got work to do.”
Now, he’ll be able to do all of that work without the threat of ineligibility looming over the Ducks like the November Eugene sky. He’ll be able to showcase his offensive ability that has left fans, media and teammates in awe.
“Joe’s great,” Moser said. “Offensively, he’s a handful. Nobody wants to guard him. Nobody can guard him.”
Moser added that Young isn’t just a dynamic player on one side of the court.
“You always run into those guys who can score and don’t play much defense,” Moser said. “He’s the exact opposite. He can score great and lock guys up on the other end.”
Head coach Dana Altman echoed Moser’s comments, saying Young’s a great shooter who handles the ball well. Altman did say that Young could improve in several areas, including defense, even though Young has averaged three steals per game.
“I like the direction he’s headed,” Altman said after their second exhibition game against Point Loma on Nov. 2. “But defensively and on the boards, he, like a lot of his teammates, we really have to make some progress there.”
While Altman is critical of Young, he said he’s extremely happy to have the Houston native on his team and eligible. Off the court, Altman said Young’s been an easy player to work with.
Moser was more specific when describing Young’s personality.
“He’s the jokester,” Moser said. “He’s definitely going to be the smack-talker you’re going to see on the floor.”
Moser, Altman and Loyd had no idea when (or if) Young would be able to bring his humor and electric game to the court this season when talking about him that Thursday. Even Young wasn’t completely sure how the waiver situation would pan out.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” Young said, “but that didn’t stop me from working hard in practice every day.”
After Oct. 25, Young could run through the “woods” in Matthew Knight Arena both in practices and games. If his two exhibition games are any indicators, Young might help the No. 19 team in the nation make last year’s Sweet Sixteen appearance look like a disappointment.
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415