Ready or not, college basketball season is here.
“Mostly not,” said UO men's coach Dana Altman in his usual eve-of-the-season tone. “We’ve got a long ways to go, but guys are working at it. Just a lot of things to tie up and a lot of work to do. Hopefully, we will be ready.”
As usual, the players had a more optimistic voice as the the 15th-ranked Ducks prepare to open the season against Fresno State at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Matthew Knight Arena.
“Everybody is really buying in,” senior guard Anthony Mathis said. “We are giving full effort and paying more attention to detail than we were in the summer. I’m excited to see how it goes in a game.”
That comment didn’t surprise his coach.
“They are anxious to play, they think they are ready,” said Altman, whose next win will be his 236th at UO to break a tie with Ernie Kent for the most wins in school history. “We have been practicing five weeks, so they are ready to go.”
Mathis, a grad transfer from New Mexico, is one of seven newcomers who could take the court for the Ducks along with three returnees from last year’s trip to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s kind of normal in today’s basketball,” sophomore guard Will Richardson said of UO’s revolving roster. “You go from AAU team to AAU team and I transferred to play at a different high school. Last year, I came to a whole new team, so this is kind of becoming the norm.”
Altman is unsure if he will have sophomore center Francis Okoro, who missed last week’s open scrimmage with an undisclosed injury. Okoro was going through a pre-practice workout Monday.
“We will see what the trainers and the doctors say,” Altman said. “Hopefully he will play, but I don’t know.”
Oregon’s starting five will depend on Okoro’s availability as Altman said only senior guard Payton Pritchard is certain to open the game.
“Other than that, I’m not sure,” he said. “A lot of those guys are close. I know everyone wants to start because they like being introduced, but I think we will have a lot of guys play a lot of minutes.”
Oregon still lists five-star freshman N’Faly Dante on its roster, but he won’t be on campus until at least the start of winter term in six weeks. Another Duck who appears unlikely to play in the opener is 6-foot-8 freshman Lok Wur, who is still being considered for a redshirt season.
Fresno State returns three starters from last season when it went 23-9, including a 13-5 mark in the Mountain West Conference.
“We lost a couple games we probably should not have lost last year knowing that any team on any night can win,” Richardson said. “Every game is a serious game, we can’t take anything for granted. I think we should be prepared.”