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UO coaches pay visit to Medford

The trip was quick but informative.

Oh, and Josh Jamieson was able to see his mother, making the drive down from Eugene on Tuesday well worth the visit.

"Got to see Mom, that's nice," said Jamieson, a Medford native who has been the Oregon director of men's basketball operations since 2007.

Jamieson and head coach Ernie Kent were at the Rogue Valley Country Club to update the Oregon Club of Southern Oregon on the status of the Ducks' program — including new recruit E.J. Singler from South Medford — and the progress of the Matthew Knight Arena, set to open in December 2010.

"This certainly to me is very special," Jamieson said. "Medford has always had a special place in my heart and always will. It's where I got my start. It's always neat to get back."

Jamieson has a background in Medford basketball. After graduating from South Medford in 1996, he joined the program as the freshman coach for four seasons while he earned a marketing degree from Southern Oregon University.

He then spent 2000-03 as a graduate assistant at Oregon while he worked toward a graduate degree in sports marketing. After a two-year stint as an assistant coach at the University of Portland, Jamieson returned to his hometown to help South Medford go to back-to-back Class 6A state championship games in 2006-07.

That connection might have been a key factor in the Ducks landing Singler.

"It was something I always hoped would happen," said Jamieson, who downplayed his role. "I care a lot about E.J., and the decision had to be entirely his based upon what he felt would be best for him. He made it and I think he's very happy with that decision."

Kent noted the freshman for his seamless transition to college.

"He's done a nice job and has handled himself real well," Kent said.

While there has been discussion about Singler redshirting this season, a decision won't be made anytime soon, Kent said. However, the coach said he firmly believes the Ducks' future is bright.

Oregon hopes to draw a national-caliber opponent — preferably Duke or North Carolina, Kent said — for the opener of the Matthew Knight Arena. And with 12 players who are either freshmen or sophomores in eligibility, the youth of the program should pay off in the near future, Kent added.

"I think this is a team that has a great run in them," Kent said. "They have tremendous strength of character. That was shown last year, playing so many young guys, all the adversity they went through. At the end of the year, rather than having a team that shut down, they wanted to practice more.

"We need to have some early success to get ready for conference play. If they get their confidence and get rolling, then the sky is the limit for this group."

The Ducks, who have been allowed to practice two hours per week since Sept. 15, are scheduled to begin official practices on Oct. 16. Oregon's first exhibition game of the season is at home Nov. 1 against Concordia, making the coaches' visit on Tuesday likely the final one before the season begins.

"It's great from a standpoint that the fans want to hear about the basketball arena," said Joe Ancell, regional director of development for Northern California and Southern Oregon for the Duck Athletic Fund. "And they want to hear about the direction of the program.

"Everyone was pretty pumped up. Ernie is great about getting everyone excited and being very enthusiastic about the program."

The Oregon Club of Southern Oregon meets Tuesdays at 11:45 a.m. at the Rogue Valley Country Club.

Reach reporter Shawn Miller at 776-4469, or e-mail shamiller@mailtribune.com

Oregon Ducks head basketball coach Ernie Kent answers questions on Tuesday at Rogue Valley Country Club. - Jamie Lusch