EUGENE — With seven transfers new to the Ducks and two players serving suspensions, No. 13 Oregon is looking surprisingly cohesive.
Oregon swept the field this past weekend at the Global Sports Hardwood Classic tournament in Eugene to improve to 7-0 for the team's best start since the 2007-08 season.
Guard Joseph Young, who came to the Ducks from Houston, is the team's leading scorer with an average of 23.3 points, while Mike Moser from UNLV is averaging 13.7 points and 7 rebounds. The starting duo already has developed chemistry.
"I think it has been good. We had a chance to develop it a little bit over the summer as well, so we are not entirely new, but it has been coming along good," Moser said. "Joe is really easy to play with. A kid that can score in any situation makes it pretty easy to play with."
Adding to the mix is forward Elgin Cook from Northwest Florida State, forward Richard Amardi from Indian Hills Community College, guard Jalil Abdul-Bassit from North Idaho College, guard Jason Calliste from Detroit and forward Brian Crow from Sonoma State.
Cook has been averaging 10.4 points and five rebounds off the bench, while Calliste is averaging 11 points and has 20 total assists.
While Oregon is by no means perfect, the team is making steady improvement, coach Dana Altman said.
"These guys will learn to play together more, and that's part of growing as a team," he said. "We have good guys, they all want to play together, they all want to be coached and I'd be really disappointed if this team doesn't make big strides."
The Ducks opened the season with an 82-75 victory over Georgetown in South Korea as part of the Armed Forces Challenge. The rest of their victories have come at Matthew Knight Arena, including wins over Pacific, North Dakota and Cal Poly over the weekend.
They'll be challenged on Sunday when they visit Mississippi, and next week when they play Illinois at Portland's Moda Center, the newly re-named home of the NBA's Trail Blazers.
"Offensively we just need to keep swinging it, make better decisions and make the right plays," Young said. "And defensively, we just need to communicate as one team. And we'll be good."
Oregon lost four seniors from last year's team, which wrapped up its 28-9 season with a 77-69 loss to Louisville in the NCAA's Sweet 16. The finish was something of a surprise after the Ducks were initially picked to finish seventh in the Pac-12.
The team successfully petitioned the NCAA for a waiver that allowed Young to play immediately rather than sit out a season. The talented shooter, Houston's top scorer with an average of 18 points a game, left the Cougars after his dad, the director of basketball operations, was asked to take a lesser position at Houston. Both father and son decided to leave the program.
Moser, who went to Portland's Grant High School, averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds at UNLV as a sophomore but was hampered by injury as a junior. The 6-foot-8 forward completed a final course for his undergraduate degree at UNLV, clearing the way for him to play for the Ducks this season.
He said the Ducks have jelled quickly.
"Definitely, you can already see how things are shaping, even in the first couple of games. You see where you can score, who you can get the ball to in certain spots, really when it's your time to step up. Those are probably the biggest things in this growing process," Moser said.
The Ducks were hit before the season started with the suspensions of guard Dominic Artis and forward Ben Carter for selling team apparel. Both players have been sidelined for the first nine games of the season and they must donate the value of the apparel to charity.
Artis, a sophomore, averaged 8.5 points and 3.2 assists last season and was projected as a potential starter at guard with Johnathan Loyd. Carter, also a sophomore, averaged 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds.
Oregon opened 18-2 last season and rose to No. 10 in the AP poll, then took a share of second place in the league's regular season standings before defeating UCLA in the conference tournament final to earn an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
As the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region, the Ducks beat fifth-seeded Oklahoma State and fourth-seeded St. Louis, setting up the game against the Cardinals in Indianapolis. It was the deepest Oregon had gone in the NCAA tournament since 2007.