Dana Altman has always made one thing clear: Oregon isn't his team, it belongs to the seniors of that respective team.
Two years ago, that meant Joevan Catron and Jay-R Strowbridge took control and nursed a team trying to find its way back to relevance, and eventually the College Basketball Invitational title.
Last year, the Ducks were anchored by five seniors who set the tone as they fought for the Pac-12 title to the final weekend, and eventually won 24 games, including two in the National Invitation Tournament.
This time around, it's again incumbent on Oregon's four seniors to lead the way for wherever the Ducks are headed, the coach said Thursday as preparations began for today's game against Washington.
"It's their year to have a good year as a team; it's their final year at our school," Altman said. "I want them to take ownership. It's part of the process.
"Everybody is a leader their senior year; you've got to take on part of the leadership role."
So if former South Medford standout E.J. Singler might seem like the most likely one to lead the way, Altman said it's equally important that fellow seniors Carlos Emory, Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods, though not as tenured at Oregon or with Altman as Singler might be, also be examples or voices of guidance for their younger teammates.
"If we're going to get better this year, it's because of those four guys and their sense of urgency," Altman said after the victory over Washington State, adding that "the reason we've been able to improve the last two years" was because of the leadership of the seniors on those teams.
While the current seniors have experienced most aspects of playing college basketball, the Ducks are now leading the Pac-12, which makes it a different situation of being the team everyone wants to beat.
"That's true "… and we're going to really feel it on the road," Altman said. "You feel it a little bit at home, but we're really going to feel it on the road.
"If we stay in a position where we're leading the conference, we'll really get tested. Everybody is going to get ready to play you.
"Any team that's leading the league and/or is ranked, they're going to get the best shot (of the opponent). It's different than what we've been through the last couple of years."
OREGON'S ANNOUNCED ATTENDANCE of 6,946 for Wednesday's game against Washington State was the lowest of three Pac-12 games at Matthew Knight Arena, though still above the average of 6,335 for the 12 previous home games this season.
Considering the Ducks are nationally ranked, haven't lost a home game in a year and lead the Pac-12, was the arena being only half filled surprising?
"I was a little surprised," Singler said. "It doesn't affect us, we have a great student section, and great fans here. "…
"I would like to see it a little bit more full, but we can't worry about that."
Ditto that sentiment, said Altman.
"I just appreciate the people who do come," the coach said. "We hope people get on board, but we can only worry about what you can control.
"It's not like we've rocketed to 17-2; it's been up and down. I'm sure some people are disappointed."
WITH HIS THREE blocked shots against WSU, Woods raised his career total to 75, which ties him for third on Oregon's all-time list with Chris Christoffersen. Still ahead of Woods are Blair Rasmussen (116) and Bob Fife (93).
Singler also had a blocked shot Wednesday, raising his career total to 58, which puts him 10th by himself among Ducks.
Before his UO career is over, Singler could possibly also reach the school's top 10 in steals, rebounds, assists and points, though it might depend on how many games the Ducks play.
Singler currently has 98 steals for his career, five out of a tie with two other Ducks for 10th place.
His rebound total is 641, with Joevan Catron 10th with 729. In assists, Singler's five on Wednesday raised his career total to 241, with Anthony Taylor 10th on UO's list with 300.
Singler is currently 16th in career scoring at Oregon with 1,320 points, with Rasmussen 10th on that list with 1,554 points.