Addition of Young could make this Ducks' most talented team

Dana Altman would do wonders with a Rubik's Cube.

Each year, the Oregon coach mixes and matches different combinations on the basketball court.

Two years ago, Altman took two one-year transfers -- Devoe Joseph and Olu Ashaolu -- and led the Ducks to 24 wins and a berth in the NIT.

Then last season, Altman melded rugged forward Arsalan Kazemi with two freshman guards -- Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson -- and Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament and reached the Sweet 16 where they fell to eventual national champion Louisville.

In a day and age where everyone is quick to give instant gratification, Altman's somehow gets swept under the rug.

He's won 483 games in his 24 years as a college head coach and made Creighton's program into a national name before he left for Eugene in 2010.  Altman's name isn't immediately mentioned when people discuss the elite tacticians in the sport, but it should be.

And there's a great chance of that credit finally coming this season.


Because Altman may very well have the most talented roster he's ever had as a head coach.

The news came down Friday morning that Houston transfer Joseph Young was cleared by the NCAA to play this season for Oregon without sitting out a year. I've heard repeatedly this fall that Young has been arguably this team's best guard since he set foot on campus, and his presence alongside Artis and Dotson will give the Ducks one of the best perimeters in the country.

In reserve, Altman can turn to speedster Johnathan Loyd, a valuable backup who was the MVP of last year's Pac-12 Tournament. Detroit transfer Jason Calliste is another key perimeter piece off the bench, and he should immediately have an impact thanks to his experience. Last season, Calliste averaged 14.4 points per game for the Titans and made 73 three-point shots.

"Our perimeter has a lot of options," Altman said recently. "Dominic (Artis) and Damyean (Dotson) are so much further ahead of where they were a year ago. They have a much better understanding of things and Jason Calliste will give us more firepower. He's tough and he picks things up quickly."

Continuing the theme of mixing and matching different pieces, UNLV transfer Mike Moser will almost certainly be Oregon's offensive focal point up front. But Altman said the key to this team's season may very well be the production this team gets at the center spot from the trio of Ben Carter, Waverly Austin, and JUCO transfer Richard Amardi.

The wild card in all of this for the Ducks?

Six-foot-six junior college transfer Elgin Cook.

The wiry forward can impact the game without needing the ball and gives Altman the flexibility to use different lineups.

"He can play either forward spot for us," Altman said of Cook. "He's going to be really good on the boards."

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Cook and Moser could regularly anchor the front court for a smaller, more skilled lineup that ensures that Oregon will have its best players on the floor.

Everyone believed that the Ducks were going to be really good this season because Altman has those types of intangibles as a coach. He has the uncanny way to find the best ways for his teams to win regardless of their personnel or the defections they suffered from the previous season.

Now with the addition of Young, Oregon has the chance to be great.

Throughout the entire preseason, the talk in the Pac-12 has been centered around how Arizona is the clear favorite in the conference and how the teams slated behind them for second through eighth place are bunched together.

The addition of Young may change that thought.

UConn, Oklahoma State, Louisville, and potentially Memphis are all programs that boast some of the top perimeters in college basketball. With the news surrounding Young on Friday morning, now Oregon has a place in that conversation.

To win at any of basketball, you need great guards.

Oregon has several of them.

You also need great coaching.

That's covered in Eugene as well.

What does it all mean?

Count on the Ducks challenging for a Pac-12 title and potentially going deep into the NCAA Tournament.

For Altman, that deserves to be the expectation.

For him though, it's just more of the same.

Another fall. Another new season. Another entirely new roster to try and work with.

"We've got some new guys like usual but they're all are easy to work with and they all want to win," Altman said.

With the addition of Young, Oregon should do plenty of that.

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