EUGENE – For the first time in three years, Oregon men’s basketball is enjoying a truly normal summer of training and development.
The pandemic kept the Ducks from doing anything on the field in 2020 and between player injuries and restrictions, no substantial progress was made last summer either. That’s not the case this year and Dana Altman has already seen significant changes among returning players, including N’Faly Dante, Quincy Guerrier, Will Richardson, Nate Bittle and Rivaldo Soares.
“Nate Bittle, first of all; I was after Nate all last year,” Altman said. “He and I had more conversations about playing harder, working harder. But I’m really happy with his efforts. He brings it to practice, trying to play through the bumps and bruises, working on his body a bit. He took a big leap. Dante is in good health, which has been a problem for him. Tendinitis when he arrived in first grade. Tears his ACL his sophomore year (year), doesn’t come back until December. … Quincy is in good health; he was nursing knees last year, he did nothing last summer. Will didn’t do anything last summer. Will has been really good trying to direct. Those four guys who are back – I appreciated the efforts of (Rivaldo Soares). He did an excellent job.
These five players make up nearly all of UO’s returning production and will be in high demand.
The Ducks also added transfers Keesawn Barthelemy and Jermaine Couisnard, transfers from junior colleges Brennan Rigsby and Tyrone Williams and five-star rookie Kel’el Ware.
Barthelemy averaged 11.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists last season for Colorado and shot 47.3% from the field, including 34.7% three-pointers and 82.6% from the free throw line. His 19 points, five assists and four rebounds against Oregon were a conference season high.
“Keeshawkn is really fast, gives us gear and explosiveness that our team lacked,” Altman said. “He needs to improve a bit defensively and on the boards. Even at his size, I think he can help us because he is explosive on the boards. He is fast ; he can get to a place, he can get his own shot. He has experience in our league. I told him to play as well against everyone as you did against us.
Couisnard averaged 12.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists at South Carolina last season while shooting 39.6% from the field, including a career-high 32.3% at three points.
“Jermaine is a bit more powerful, 6-4/6-5, built on him well,” Altman said. “Frank Martin, very good defensive coach, he has a relationship with (assistant coach) Chuck (Martin). I think he can come and give us some stuff right away. I think both guys will help us. We also need them. Our perimeter numbers aren’t great, so these two guys need to play as well as Brennan Rigsby, a transfer from a junior college in Northwest Florida, needs to step up and play right away.
After shooting just 33.2 percent from three-point range last season, the lowest in Altman’s 12-year tenure, Oregon needs Barthelemy, Couisnard and Rigsby to shoot well to not only improve the numbers of the team, but also to release Richardson. The fifth-year senior is a career 39.2% shooter from behind the arc and shot 46.9% in 2019-20 but 38.8% on much higher volume last season.
“Will has proven that he shoots 40% on three; it’s not like we hoped he could get up there — he did,” Altman said. “We have to give him injections. He did a great job directing the show. He knows our system, we have added things but he understands very quickly. Will really understands the game. What I want him to do is work on his body. He must grow. That’s what people in the NBA want and I think it will help him tremendously with us. He did a good job. He worked harder this year in the weight room.