The Oregon men’s basketball team will face 16-4 UCLA Thursday night at Matthew Knight Arena, and Ducks head coach Dana Altman expects the Bruins to be a tough test. Sophomore guard-forward Kyle Anderson especially impresses Altman, as do freshmen Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford.
During Tuesday’s Pac-12 media teleconference, Altman discussed UCLA and Mike Moser and how graduate transfer players like him compare to freshmen who are one and done, or play for one year before entering the NBA draft. He also talked about Arik Armstead hours before the sophomore announced his departure from the basketball team.
What has Mike Moser meant to your team this year?
“He’s filled a big hole. We lost Arsalan (Kazemi) and E.J. Singler from a year ago and (Moser) came in and gave us some experience at the forward spot. He’s been a little inconsistent, but he’s had some big games for us and has been really solid for us.”
What are the challenges for a player, like Moser, who transfers to play for just one year?
“Just trying to be a big part of the team for one year. Usually, you have an opportunity for two, three, maybe four years. I think it’s very similar to guys who are one and done — they come in as freshman. The biggest difference when they come in as a graduate is there’s a maturity there and they know it’s about the team. They’re trying to accomplish something for the team. While there are similarities between a one-and-done as a freshman, I think you have some advantages because they’re just a little more mature.”
When did Moser reach out to you?
“He let it be known around the time of the (2013) Final Four that we was going to graduate and leave.”
What have you seen out of UCLA freshmen Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford and how important are they to what UCLA does, especially on offense?
“I think they’re both really talented and come in and provide a big spark. LaVine’s athleticism is off the charts and Alford does a nice job of handling the ball and getting people the ball in the right spots. Bryce is the ball handler and LaVine is some instant offense and some great athleticism. I think they both give them a big boost off the bench.”
How much of a different look does UCLA have when they move Alford to point guard and Kyle Anderson to the post or the wing?
“Kyle’s so versatile. He just gives you so many different looks, with his ball-handling, with his passing skills and with his ability to see over the defense, so it doesn’t matter really if it’s out front or more from a wing position or even in the post. He’s got great vision, he really moves the ball well, he’s got great instincts, he’s just a very versatile player that creates a lot of mismatch problems and problems because he can shoot the three, he can go post up. But I think the thing that separates him is really his court vision and his ability to make plays for his teammates.”
Have you seen or game-planned against a player like Anderson?
“He’s pretty unique. You don’t see many guys that size that have the ball skills and shoot the three. He’s pretty unique. There’s not anybody in our league who’s like him.”
Did you notice a difference defensively in the win over Washington State that might point to improvement going forward?
“The encouraging thing was our communication was better, our transition D was a little better and our rebounding was much better. It was a combination of those three things and I don’t think Washington State played that well. We caught a break there that they missed some shots that they normally hit. But, for us, our communication was much better, our transition D, we got back and put our defense together more quickly, and our rebounding was much better. We had more physicality on the boards and I thought we did a better job there.”
It was obviously late in the game and a blowout, but what went into the decision to play Arik Armstead against Washington State?
“He’s been with the team for three weeks and it was just an opportunity to get him some minutes. He’s done some nice things in practice.”
Does he have physical gifts that other guys don’t have in the post?
“Well, he’s bigger. He’s wider. That doesn’t maybe address our shot-blocking, or lack thereof, but he is a wide body.”
Follow Victor Flores on Twitter @vflores415