If Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Casey Benson had each taken a redshirt season and played four years at Oregon, they would be honored on senior day when the Ducks host Arizona on Saturday night.
Tyler Dorsey could have joined them if he stayed to play his senior year at Oregon.
All four obviously left before their eligibility was up, but those players who led the Ducks to the Final Four two years ago remain on the mind of Oregon coach Dana Altman as the Ducks appear on the verge of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
“The biggest thing is to have guys who want to play for the team,” Altman said following Thursday’s 79-51 win over Arizona State. “Nobody plays 31 games real well, nobody shoots good for 31 games, nobody gets to play as much as they want in 31 games. Every parent and kid wants to play 39 minutes. ‘Give me a minute around a TV time out and I want to play 39 minutes’, but that is not possible. You have to think about the team. This isn’t my night so I have to guard and rebound or make something happen on the defensive end. Make a play for somebody because shots are not falling. Those are things about growing up and being part of a team. Sometimes guys understand that and really get it.
“When we have had good teams, that has been the case. Dillon Brooks wouldn’t score a basket and he didn’t care. He’d get 10 rebounds and guard his tail off and if we won, he wouldn’t say a word. He’s fired up for whoever scored. It was all about winning. Jordan Bell would turn down shots. He wanted to guard and rebound, he wanted to win games. Chris Boucher gives up a starting spot and tells me ‘Coach, if you need to bring me off the bench, bring me off the bench because we just have to win.’ I brought him off the bench for the rest of the year and he never complained once. That’s why we had decent teams.”
Altman has recited those stories to his current players without getting a complete buy-in to the process.
“It’s tough to give up sometimes what you think you need,” he said. “That’s in any group dynamic, to give up something for the group is hard to do. Some guys understand it, some don’t. Some guys have so many influences from the outside that they never do get it. That is part of the game, part of coaching, part of growing with the team.”
Altman has restructured his roster in each of the past two years after building around Brooks, Bell, Benson, Dorsey, Boucher, and Dylan Ennis during two deep NCAA Tournament runs.
Payton Pritchard is the only remaining Duck who played with any of those players. Last year, six of Oregon’s top seven scorers were in their first year with the team while six newcomers joined the roster this season.
Oregon (16-12) was the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 and ranked as high as No. 13 in the AP poll, but sits tied for ninth in the Pac-12 at 7-8 as it hosts Arizona on Saturday night.
“Sometimes the energy level gets down because they don’t feel like we are winning enough,” Altman said. “You can only change that by getting more energized and playing harder. They feel sorry for themselves and don’t bring the energy but that is no way to get better or accomplish things. When the energy level is up, I like the way they fly around, but sometimes we are our own worst enemy with that and we don’t generate energy from within. If things are not going good for me, then I don’t get energized. You just can’t have a good team that way. When we had teams that won championship and have been pretty good, if it wasn’t going good for them, they found a way to help the team. They got after each other to stay positive and stay after it. These guys are a little too offensive-oriented. If shots are not going or they don’t get enough shots, they feel sorry for themselves. There are a lot of ways to win a game.”