Chris Duarte is shooting nearly 53% from the field during Oregon’s three-game men's basketball winning streak.
“Feel pretty good,” UO’s junior-college transfer said before practice Tuesday. “I know it is going to take time with the transition, I understand that. I keep working and trying to get better. Get my confidence up.”
Duarte has started all 17 games for the eighth-ranked Ducks (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12 Conference), who visit Washington State (10-7, 1-3) at 6 p.m. Thursday. Duarte ranks second on the team behind Payton Pritchard in scoring with 13.0 points while his recent shooting success has boosted his percentage to 45.3 on the season.
Duarte was 7-for-12 from the field, including 4-of-8 on 3-pointers, while scoring 20 points during Saturday’s 78-69 win over Arizona State. He made 5-of-10 shots against Arizona on Thursday and 6-of-12 in the previous game at Utah.
“Payton is a great player and I’m still learning how to play with him,” Duarte said. “Payton is always going to have two defenders on him so that gives me a lot of space.”
With Duarte among the top producers for Oregon’s offense, Dana Altman has emphasized improvement on defense for the 6-foot-6 junior.
“He’s got to fight the ball screens a lot better,” the UO coach said. “He’s working on it and he had a good practice yesterday. He saw the film and knew he let us down defensively. It’s there, I don’t think there’s any doubt. … I think he could be a good defender with his length, but he’s not using his length.”
Duarte has heard that message from his coach.
“I’ve got to work a lot on my defense,” he said. “That is one of my weaknesses so I have got to keep working to get better. There is a lot more in the tank, I need to keep working.”
C.J. Walker, who has missed the past three games due to injuries, remains questionable to return against the Cougars.
“He did a few things yesterday and I’m hoping he can do more (Tuesday),” Altman said.
The 6-8 freshman is averaging 5.7 points and 3.1 rebounds. He injured his back against Alabama State on Dec. 29 and played 15 minutes against Colorado on Jan. 2.
“He hasn’t been able to work out here for 2½ weeks,” Altman said. “He has been doing a little shooting, but it hasn’t been much.”
Wooten in New York
The New York Knicks announced Tuesday that they signed Kenny Wooten to a two-way contract. The 6-foot-8 Wooten left Oregon following his sophomore season and went undrafted before signing to play with the Knicks’ G League team in Westchester.
Wooten was averaging 7.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in 23 games before being called up to the Knicks.
“I’m happy for him,” Altman said. “He’s a tremendous athlete who gave us a lot for two years. Selfishly, I’d have loved to have him back, but I’m glad he’s making progress. He started the year without a two-way deal, which is really tough, and then worked his way into that. That means he’s making progress which I love to see for him.”