Singler to play key role for new-look Ducks

EUGENE — Last time out for the Ducks, E.J. Singler hit a running bank shot with 2 seconds left and Oregon defeated Creighton to win the College Basketball Invitational.

The victory in the best-of-three BCI championship punctuated an eventful season for the Ducks. They were playing their first year under coach Dana Altman, and opened the stunning new Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon also finished 21-18, far surpassing most expectations.

Now it's up to the Ducks to make this season eventful, too.

"People are excited to watch us play. People want to come out and watch us," said Singler, the younger brother of former Duke standout Kyle Singler, a second-round draft pick of the Detroit Pistons in June. "We've got a lot of new players. We've got a lot of talent on our team, so it's cool. I like it. It's going to be a fun year this year."

But it will likely be a season of adjustment for Oregon, which has eight newcomers, including five transfers. Singler, who played in every game for the Ducks last season, is Oregon's top returning scorer with an average of 11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds.

He is joined by senior Jeremy Jacob, who is set to return after a knee injury that required two surgeries and caused him to miss 17 games. Jacob said before the start of preseason practice that he has fully recovered.

Other Oregon returnees include senior guard Garrett Sim, senior forward Tyrone Nared, and sophomore guards Johnathan Loyd and Nicholas Lucenti. Sim averaged 8.2 points per game.

"We've got a much deeper team than we had a year ago. We are more athletic, but I'm concerned about our skill levels and when you're trying to blend eight new scholarship players in, we're going to go through some growing pains," Altman said. "We've got a lot to work on."

The most prominent newcomer for the Ducks is freshman guard Jabari Brown, considered by many a five-star recruit.

Brown averaged 23.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as a senior at Oakland High School in Northern California, and looked at offers from Connecticut, Washington and Georgia Tech.

He led the team in scoring during the Ducks' offseason exhibition tour of Italy, averaging 15.4 points and five rebounds. The Ducks finished 2-3 on the trip against Italian professional teams.

"I don't feel pressure, I just want to win," Brown said. "I have high expectations of myself and I just focus on getting better every day."

Among Oregon's transfers is 6-foot-11 junior center Tony Woods, who was dismissed from Wake Forest last year after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault on his girlfriend. Because Woods didn't play last season, he is immediately available to play for Oregon.

The most notable loss from last season's team is team captain Joevan Catron, who averaged 15.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.

The Ducks open the season on the road against Vanderbilt, expected by many to be ranked in the top 10.

New this season is the arrival of Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12. All the league teams are included on the conference part of the schedule.

"A big goal of ours is to win a Pac-12 championship. It's one of my biggest goals," Singler said hopefully. "We're just looking forward to this season."

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