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Young Ducks impress early

EUGENE — Dana Altman got a good first impression of his freshman class.

Oregon’s four freshmen showed up during the summer and began conditioning drills with the team last month before practice officially began almost two weeks ago.

“I like their attitude and their work ethic in the gym,” Altman said before the start of preseason practice. “They came here with a purpose. I have not been able to spend a lot of time with them, September is a recruiting month and I was out quite a bit. They have shown determination and got themselves in shape. They realize the opportunity they have and they will try to get ready for that opportunity.”

The Ducks will have to count on their freshmen with only nine scholarship players. The class is two players short after forward Ray Kasongo and guard JaQuan Lyle did not meet academic standards for admission.

That leaves the class with forwards Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks along with guards Ahmaad Rorie and Casey Benson.

Last year, the only scholarship freshman for Oregon was guard A.J. Lapray, who was injured most of the season. The previous year, Altman started freshmen guards Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson — who were both kicked out of school in the summer after a sexual assault investigation — and regularly played freshman forward Ben Carter, who transferred to UNLV in the offseason.

Altman said playing time for a freshman depends on the player.

“A lot of aspects go into it like talent level and maturity level,” he said. “A lot of guys in high school play all over the country, so that makes them more ready than 10 or 15 years ago. Another variable on that is how many experienced players are around them. If you have two or three experienced guards, you can put big freshmen out there with them and it’s easier. Two years ago, we had an experienced front line with E.J. (Singler) and Arsalan (Kazemi) and Tony (Woods) and we were able to put D.A. and Dot out there with them. I think it all comes down to how experienced some of the positions are when you start to throw freshmen out there. There are a lot of variables, the biggest being talent and are they physically ready?”

Despite having six newcomers, including two junior-college transfers, Altman said he did not plan many changes during preseason practices.

“We’ll keep it the same,” said Altman, whose Ducks open the regular season on Nov. 14, at home against Coppin State. “We have a philosophy on how we want to approach the (preseason), and I don’t think it will change too much. We may ask guys to come along a little quicker than we probably would have, especially the freshmen, but we will not change our approach too much.”

Altman noted that having 10 players on the roster, including walk-on Theo Friedman, will not make him adjust his usual playing rotation.

“If you look at the last four years, we usually incorporated nine guys,” said Altman, who is 97-47 in four years at UO and took the Ducks to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons.

“Last year, maybe we had nine or 10 guys. We like to play a lot of guys. If you work hard in practice and do a good job, you have guys who play 30 minutes because they are the foundation of the team, but we always like to give guys roles and include nine or 10 guys.”