During Dana Altman’s tenure in Eugene, the Oregon program’s had some good luck with one-year transfers. Last season Arsalan Kazemi led the Pac-12 in rebounding and helped lead the Ducks to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2007. The hope for the 2013-14 season is that three such newcomers can help Oregon repeat last season’s performance.
As first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, former Detroit guard Jason Calliste has joined the program and will be eligible to play immediately. Calliste, who averaged 14.4 points and 3.3 assists per game as a redshirt junior last season, joins former UNLV forward Mike Moser and junior college transfer Richard Amardi as one-year transfers on Oregon’s 2013-14 roster.
Calliste joins a backcourt that includes the likes of Dominic Artis (8.5 ppg, 3.2 apg), Damyean Dotson (11.4, 3.5 apg), Johnathan Loyd (5.0, 2.6 apg) and possibly Houston transfer Joseph Young. Young, who averaged 18.0 ppg as a sophomore at Houston last season, is still awaiting word in regards to his request for an immediate eligibility waiver.
If Young’s request is granted the Ducks will have one of the best perimeter rotations in the Pac-12. But if not, thanks to the addition of Calliste Oregon should still be fine in this area.
The question for Oregon as they look to repeat as Pac-12 tournament champions (while also improving their regular season standing in the conference) is how they go about accounting for the graduation of four of their top five rebounders from 2012-13. Waverly Austin (2.7 rpg) returns for his senior campaign, and he along with Amardi, Moser (averaged 6.1 rpg in 2012-13 and 10.5 rpg in 2011-12) and sophomore Ben Carter (2.3 rpg) will need to carry the load on the glass.
And given the interior talent that some of the other contenders in the Pac-12 currently possess, rebounding could be the deciding factor as to whether or not Oregon can win the conference.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.