South Medford basketball coach Dennis Murphy, left, gives star forward E.J. Singler a congratulatory hug after Singler announced Monday he would play basketball at Oregon. The announcement was made during a ceremony at the school. - Jim Craven

Ducks get the call

In the end for E.J. Singler, his college decision came down to where he felt the most comfortable.

The South Medford senior basketball and football standout said last week that he was leaning toward the University of Oregon, and his choice of schools became more clear this past weekend during a recruiting visit with the Ducks.

"It just seemed like it was the right fit for me," said Singler, who announced his verbal commitment to Oregon on Monday. Official signing day is Nov. 12.

"After getting to know the coaches, I really clicked with them," added the 6-foot-6 forward, "and the players are great. That's the biggest part. I really clicked with the players and they kind of are my second family now."

Singler's commitment is the first for Oregon's recruiting class of 2009. Two other potential spots are yet to be filled. Singler noted that the Ducks are heavily recruiting 6-4 point guard John Wall, who is generally considered the No. 1 or 2 prospect in the 2009 class, and 6-7 Jamil Wilson, who is ranked 35th overall by

The Ducks are in rebuilding mode after losing five seniors off last year's team, with six true freshmen and eight freshmen overall on the roster. Singler has played with and against at least one of those freshmen in former Sunset star point guard Garrett Sim and is familiar with playing at McArthur Court after helping the Panthers to the Class 6A state tournament in each of his three varsity seasons thus far.

"The only person I really know is Garrett," said Singler, "but the six freshmen that are coming in are totally good guys on and off the court. They have really good potential."

The same can be said of Singler, who was a second-team all-state selection last year. He averaged about 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks overall as a junior, and bumped all those averages up a couple notches during Southwest Conference play.

Singler was named to the Class 6A all-tournament first team last season in Eugene, ranking third at the state tourney in scoring and second in rebounding and blocked shots. It was Singler's full-court, driving lay-in with one second to play that advanced South Medford to the state tournament in a 56-54 win over Wilson.

"I'm extremely happy and pleased for E.J.," said Dennis Murphy, athletics director and boys basketball coach at South Medford. "He's worked hard and become one of the best players in the state and on a national level. It's a huge accomplishment on his part, and I think he's going to be part of making that University of Oregon program even better."

For Murphy, it's the third straight year in which he has been able to announce a Division I basketball recruit. Kyle Singler, E.J.'s older brother, got the ball rolling around this time in 2006 when he announced his intention to sign with Duke, and Michael Harthun followed that up last fall when he signed to play at Washington State.

"I've been spoiled, and I feel extremely blessed and fortunate," said Murphy, whose 2007 team won the 6A title a year after finishing as runner-up. "All great kids from great families. It's extremely satisfying, and the fact that they all came at once is also good."

While all the signings of his players have been special, regardless of level, Murphy said he's very happy that E.J. Singler opted to remain in Oregon.

"It's just always good when Oregon kids stay home because we all get to enjoy and revel in all the excitement a little more," said Murphy, who is about to embark on his 21st season leading the Panthers.

For Singler, the in-state lure of playing at Oregon was definitely a factor in his decision.

"I'm happy that I can play for Oregon and represent my state and have my family and friends there for it all," he said.

Singler also said the fast-paced style of play preferred by Oregon coach Ernie Kent definitely fits his skill set, and the fact that the Ducks plan to open a state-of-the-art basketball arena in two years doesn't hurt, either.

A lack of height among Panther reserves in his first two seasons, and on the team in general last year, forced Singler to play mostly on the low block in high school, but he has always shown the ability to handle the basketball and shoot from the perimeter.

This past summer, Singler was a versatile force for Team Jones on the AAU circuit, playing — and defending — anywhere from shooting guard to center. He worked hard on honing his ability to shoot from the perimeter to address any concerns potential recruiters might have of him.

Singler said part of the reason Oregon wanted him to come to Eugene was because he can capably handle any number of positions and responsibilities.

"Coach Kent sees me playing the two (shooting guard), three (small forward) and four (power forward), and I like all those positions," said Singler. "He wants me to do them all. He says it'll be good that I can be at four but still get the rebound and take it down on the dribble. He says that's what he likes about me because I can make mismatches when I can post up someone but still bring it up, too."

Singler's heady nature on the court and versatility have drawn comparisons to his older brother, who was named ACC rookie of the year last season. Although he's about two inches shorter and these days 30 pounds lighter than Kyle Singler, E.J. Singler has the same competitive fire and leadership capabilities.

"He's a very, very tough kid," said Murphy of the younger Singler. "He's not a kid that's real flashy by any means, but what happens is you find after watching him play that here's seven or eight rebounds, 10 or 12 points, a couple assists and blocked shots. Because of his competitive nature he's a kid that's hard to keep off the floor. He will step in at Oregon and do whatever is needed to do to help out the team."

One of E.J. Singler's first phone calls after making his college choice was to his older brother, who had been giving him advice on what to think about throughout the process.

"He was proud of me that I chose Oregon and was very happy for me," said E.J. Singler.

"We're trying to get a Duke-Oregon game," he added with a laugh. "I told him you better ask Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) to get a date for us to play."

Whether that happens remains to be seen but until then Murphy said E.J. Singler will be able to carve out his own niche with the Ducks.

"By the time his career is done at the University of Oregon," said the coach, "people will look back and say it turned out to be a great thing for E.J. and a great thing for the Ducks."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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