In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.
By Jeff Goodman
Some have begun to throw Dana Altman's Oregon Ducks in the equation for the upper-echelon for the Pac-12, along with the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Cal.
Altman has eight new faces - including a trio of fairly well-known transfers - and after talking to him following the team's recent trip to Italy, it's clear he isn't quite ready to bestow those expectations on his squad.
"We've got a long ways to go," Altman said.
What Altman learned: "I don't know if there was one major thing, but the overall sense is that we've got to improve our passing and catching. Our skill level has to get better. Our guys have got to get familiar with our scheme and what we want to do. Basically, we found out that we've got a lot of work to do."
Who stood out: Jabari (Brown) scored the ball well for us and was the leading scorer on the trip. He also averaged about five rebounds a game. The first three games he scored fairly easy and then the scouting report got passed around and he forced a few shots the last two games. But for a freshman, it was a decent start. E.J. (Singler) was solid and freshman Brett Kingman came off the bench and made shots. He was 11-of-24 from 3 and really shot it well."
What is the biggest concern: "Just trying to get everyone on the same page, blending in the new guys."
On the expectations some have placed on his team: "I didn't know they were there with all the new guys we have. Cal is going to be good with all the guys they have back, Stanford has a lot back, UCLA lost a couple of good players, but they have a lot back - look how Arizona finished last year. We've got a lot of new players. If Devoe (Joseph) and Olu can make a quick transition and Tony Woods can get the rust off and get back into shape. ..."
- Only five players return from last year's team: starters E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim, part-time starters Tyrone Nared and Johnathan Loyd and Jeremy Jacob - who only played 17 games due to a knee injury.
- Altman sounded concerned with who will pick up the leadership role following the graduation of seniors Joevan Catron and Jay-R Strowbridge. "They got everyone else to play," Altman said. "Everyone knew Joevan was all about team - and that's why they followed him."
- Altman admitted that he has upgraded both the depth and athleticism. Remember, there were plenty of defections after he replaced Dana Altman - guys like Michael Dunigan (overseas), Matt Humphrey (BC) and Josh Crittle (Central Florida) left and Altman had nine scholarship guys a year ago.
- Altman said that one-year transfer Olu Ashaolu is as adept a 6-foot-6 rebounder as he's been around, but that the ex-Louisiana Tech forward will need to be patient and work on developing his perimeter game.
- Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph didn't play on the trip because he isn't eligible until after the first six games. The only other player who didn't play was freshman Bruce Barron, who suffered a knee injury in a pickup game this summer. "He'll be fine for the start of practice," Altman said.
- Altman said that Woods, the Wake Forest transfer who was kicked out of school following an incident with his girlfriend, needs to develop a go-to move in the post. "He was easy to work with on the trip and has tremendous upside," Altman said. "He's a talented young man."
- Altman said he doesn't want to get into the habit of taking "quick fixes" such as Joseph and Ashaolu. "Would you like to do that on a regular basis? No. But we were in a situation where we wanted to compete and we had already taken four freshmen. Sometimes adding six or seven freshmen isn't good, either."
- Altman's team went 2-3 on the trip, but he spoke highly of the competition. The Ducks played pro teams in Italy - many of them boasting former NBA players.
- Jeremy Jacob, who was injured much of last season, is healthy - according to Altman. "He's in really good shape and should help us this season. He can score on the block and plays physical."