It’s been 10 years since Oregon had the conference player of the year in men’s basketball.
There’s a chance that Oregon senior E.J. Singler could earn that accolade this season.
He was at least in the discussion of Pac-12 coaches who were asked Tuesday during the weekly conference call about which players they would consider voting for when ballots are sent in on Sunday.
“I love Singler," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Singler makes his team win.
“You look at Oregon in that last five minutes (of a game), who are they going to? It’s him."
Howland also mentioned Cal’s Allen Crabbe and Arizona’s Solomon Hill as leading candidates, saying “those three guys are really, really special."
Oregon State coach Craig Robinson also spoke highly of Singler as a candidate.
“Singler should be up there (as a top candidate) for leading his team and playing as consistently as he has all year," Robinson explained.
Colorado’s Tad Boyle said Oregon was one of the teams with “multiple guys" who could win the award, listing Singler and Arsalan Kazemi.
Only three Ducks have been named conference player of the year since the award was instituted in 1976, won that season by Oregon’s Ron Lee. The other Ducks named player of the year were Terrell Brandon in 1991 and Luke Ridnour in 2003.
The coaches generally suggested that a team’s finish in the standings will factor into their vote, which is due Sunday after the regular season ends. It might end up being the team that wins the conference title produces the player of the year.
The 19th-ranked Ducks (23-6 overall) are in first place in the Pac-12, ahead of UCLA (12-5) and Cal (12-6). Oregon will play at Colorado today and conclude the regular season at Utah on Saturday.
Singler and Kazemi are obviously Oregon’s leading candidates for the all-conference team, which will list 10 players. Devoe Joseph last season became the first Duck since Aaron Brooks in 2006 to be listed on the first team by conference coaches.
Two Ducks, Damyean Dotson and Dominic Artis, also figure to be in the running for the conference’s all-freshman team. An Oregon player hasn’t been listed on that team since Tajuan Porter in 2007.
It’s an extremely strong group of freshmen in the conference this season, so picking five might be challenging.
Artis provides an interesting case for the coaches.
Though he missed nine games of the conference season, his importance was shown by the Ducks’ going 5-4 without him. Oregon has won all seven games against Pac-12 opponents in which he has played.
There is precedent for a player making the unit despite missing significant time because of an injury. Brooks was honored in 2004, though he didn’t play in 10 of the 18 conference games because of a broken hand.