Joseph Young Makes Oregon the Top Pac-12 Threat to ArizonaPosted by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn) on October 28th, 2013
This is not the first time Dana Altman, Oregon’s fourth-year head coach, has used a one-year transfer to improve the Ducks’ roster. It happened in 2011-12, when guard Devoe Joseph and forward Olu Ashaolu, formerly of Minnesota and Louisiana Tech, respectively, combined to average 27 points and nine rebounds to help lead the Ducks to a 24-10 record. It happened last season, too, when former Rice big man Arsalan Kazemi gave Oregon a tough frontcourt complement to its deep backcourt while leading the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (29.0%). Using one-year transfers on a yearly basis might not seem like a viable long-term strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. At some point, Altman ostensibly hopes, Oregon will have won enough games and wooed enough elite high school basketball players with its glimmering facilities and Nike-sponsored “Tall Firs” court, that it won’t need to tap the transfer market to repopulate its roster with top-end talent. It can just recruit those players straight out of high school, because Oregon will be a destination program, because prospects will value the campus in Eugene as harboring one of the top programs in the country. Altman is pushing Oregon in that direction, but the Ducks aren’t there yet. So in the meantime, the former Creighton coach will continue to welcome one-year transfers with open arms.
The latest additions are former UNLV (and UCLA) forward and Portland native Mike Moser, former Detroit guard Jason Calliste and former Houston guard Joseph Young. All three should play a big role in helping Oregon push Arizona at the top of the Pac-12 this season, and two of them, Calliste and Moser, knew they’d be able to play for the Ducks right away this season thanks to the NCAA’s graduate transfer clause. Young was a different story; he needed the NCAA to grant a hardship waiver – based on the claim that his father, Michael Young, a member of Houston’s great Phi Slama Jama teams from the early-1980s, was reassigned from his position as director of basketball operations with the Cougars, a decision that prompted his departure from the program. Joseph argued that his father’s exit was a “hardship” sufficient to forgo the one-year holdover penalty most undergraduate transfers face – in order to play for the Ducks this season. On Friday, two days after the governing body settled one of the most baffling transfer waiver cases in recent memory, the NCAA declared Young eligible for the upcoming season. In 32 games for Houston last year, Young averaged 18.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from three, 87.5 percent from the free throw line, and posting a 124.1 offensive rating, which ranked one spot outside the top-25 such marks in the country. He joins what was – already without Young – one of the best backcourts in the country, as point guard Dominic Artis, wing Damyeon Dotson and Calliste form a deep and athletic group. Young and Calliste’s additions also address one of the Ducks’ main flaws from last season: three-point shooting. Oregon shot just 33.3 percent from deep, a number Altman’s two backcourt transfers – and possibly Moser, if he can shoot more like he did two years ago (33.1 percent) than last season (26.7) – should improve.
In the bigger picture, Young, along with Moser and Calliste, give the Ducks the firepower they need to not only reach their second consecutive NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007-08, but quite possibly spoil Arizona’s status as the clear Pac-12 front-runner. The loss of Kazemi cannot be overlooked, and it’s tough to tell whether Moser – who regressed last season while battling an elbow injury and struggling to adjust to a position switch – can regain the fringe All-America form he flashed in 2011-12. But if Oregon can find a reliable post partner for the UNLV transfer (Ben Carter and Waverly Austin seem like the best options), then Oregon, equipped with one of the best group of guards in the nation, could very well be poised to advance beyond the Sweet Sixteen, where its NCAA Tournament run ended last season. When at full-strength last year (Artis missed nine games during conference play), the Ducks were arguably the best team in the Pac-12. With Young, they could be even better this season. The scariest part about all of this for the rest of the Pac-12 might not even be the sheer talent Oregon has amassed of late. It’s the man, Altman, marshaling those talents from the sidelines.
This latest transfer addition should put the rest of the league on notice: Oregon is to be taken seriously as a conference championship contender. It should also tell the selection committee that the Ducks – and come March, this could require an emphatic reminder – are not a #12 seed. They’re much, much better than that.