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Less Than A Month To Season's Start

Oct 26, 2020

The countdown is on, although Dana Altman isn't in a rush to cross days off his calendar.

As of Sunday, the Oregon men's basketball team was a month out from the start of the 2020-21 season. The NCAA identified Nov. 25 as the first possible day of games following a delayed start due to the pandemic.

The UO men are coming off a Pac-12 regular-season championship, fueled by conference player of the year Payton Pritchard. The postseason was canceled by the onset of the pandemic, and the Ducks couldn't go through a standard summer of strength-and-conditioning workouts, plus open-gym play.

Practices began earlier this month, but it's been a slow and steady build for Altman's program. He doesn't want to rush anything and risk an injury prior to the season starting.

"I feel like we're behind, conditioning-wise, and in skill development," Altman said in a Zoom call with local media on Oct. 16. "We didn't get to go through the regular routine in the offseason. …

"The last two weeks before the season starts is when we're gonna try to really ramp it up."

As of late October, the Ducks still don't know for certain what their schedule will look like. The status of the roster also is a little unclear, with transfer LJ Figueroa awaiting word on a petition for eligibility this season; Altman recently confirmed the loss of a player, Addison Patterson, who elected to transfer.

There are plenty of familiar faces on hand, though. Junior guard Will Richardson is poised to step into Pritchard's shoes. Senior Chris Duarte is back with his boundless energy on both ends of the floor, and the frontcourt features imposing sophomores N'Faly Dante and Chandler Lawson.

Duarte is one of four scholarship seniors on the roster, along with Figueroa, graduate transfer Amauri Hardy and Eugene Omoruyi, who sat out last year to heal up from injury after transferring.

Altman said that quartet has helped set the tone since practices began earlier this month.

"All four of those guys want to be really good individually, so that collectively we can be good," Altman said. "But they really want to be good basketball players, and they're really focused."

Other Ducks looking to make their debuts in 2020-21 include junior wing Eric Williams Jr., who practiced with the team after transferring in last year; athletic redshirt freshman Lök Wur; and freshman point guard Jalen Terry.

Altman compared Terry's explosive quickness with former UO guard Johnathan Loyd. He lauded the competitive nature of Williams, who would ask to guard Pritchard or Duarte in practices last season.

Soon enough, Oregon fans will be able to see those skills on display in games, come late November. But there is work to be done between now and then, and at a deliberate pace, to keep the Ducks as healthy as possible and put them in the best position to challenge for another Pac-12 title.