Kelly Graves takes Oregon women's basketball back to class
SAN FRANCISCO – Oregon forward Jillian Alleyne calls basketball practice a fifth class, so Kelly Graves might as well hold the title of professor.
The first-year Oregon coach left his long string of success at Gonzaga to help the Ducks find some traction. Succeeding the Guru of Go, up-tempo master Paul Westhead, Graves found that his new squad needed to learn basketball basics. While the learning process has not been without its hurdles, he doesn't see that as a bad thing.
"It has really rejuvenated me as a coach," he said Wednesday at 2014-15 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day.
Graves has the Ducks' attention. Part of this teaching project is basketball terminology. Defensive concepts in general are also new to the Ducks. At the individual level, it's on Graves to develop a roster that was recruited to fit Westhead's run-and-gun style. Graves is trying to turn niche players recruited for a certain style into what he calls "whole" basketball players.
"With this basketball team in particular, they played in such a unique system, there are so many challenges," Graves said. "The baseline we started at is quite low.
"I'm expecting them to be at this level. I've been a little more animated perhaps than I am typically."
The good thing: Alleyne returns as the nation's reigning rebounding leader, and the roster as a whole hasn't seen much turnover despite a relative lack of success in recent years. The Ducks have big plans now that they have Graves guiding them.
"What's really kept us together, is we're all in. We want to win," Alleyne said of the team staying together. "Everyone has just been really committed to the University of Oregon and putting Oregon on the map."