The Oregon Ducks will depend on dependable E.J. Singler even more this basketball season.
The 6-foot-6 forward, a mainstay as a starter for the past two seasons, is one of just three returning seniors on a Ducks team that features nine newcomers — six of them freshmen.
Singler, who came to the Ducks from Medford, where he was the Oregon prep player of the year at South Medford High in 2009, averaged a career-high 13.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. He led the conference in free-throw percentage, hitting 110 of 121 attempts.
For his career at Oregon, Singler has 1,114 points and is the Pac-12’s scoring leader among active players. He has started the past 79 games for the Ducks dating back to his freshman season.
“E.J.’s been an anchor for us the last two years," Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He’s done a great job of stabilizing our team. His work ethic is really good. Two years ago he was a sophomore with some experience, but he had a great year and really helped our team last season."
It is only natural that Singler would be compared to his big brother Kyle, who is considered one of the best prep basketball stars ever from the state of Oregon. Kyle was heavily recruited out of South Medford and ended up playing for legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. He was the 2010 Final Four MVP with the Blue Devils before becoming a second-round pick in the NBA draft. Kyle Singler now plays for the Detroit Pistons.
But the younger Singler long ago established his own identity as the “anchor" with the Ducks. He joins 6-11 center Tony Woods and 6-5 wing Carlos Emory as returning seniors on the roster.
While Singler has been battling tendinitis in his knees and sat out the Ducks’ first exhibition game against Concordia of Portland, he is expected to be ready to go when the season opens at home on Nov. 10 against Northern Arizona.
Oregon went 24-10 overall last season, finishing 13-5 in the Pac-12 and tied for second place. The team’s 24 wins were its most since the 2006-07 season.
The Ducks have been picked in the preseason to finish seventh in the Pac-12 by the reporters who regularly cover the conference.
Oregon added nine newcomers, including junior-college transfer Waverly Austin, a 6-11, 275-pound center who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds last year at Palm Beach State College to earn Florida JC player-of-the-year honors. Oregon hopes the junior will bring some inside scoring and rebounding.
Freshman Dominic Artis is also getting a lot of attention. The 5-11 guard from Nevada led Findlay Prep of Henderson, Nev., to a 32-1 record and a national title in his senior season.
“D.A., because we lost two senior guards, will have an opportunity to play a lot early," Altman said. “He’s really worked hard this summer and he had a great fall."
Another newcomer — although not right away — is Arik Armstead, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward who plays defensive tackle on the Oregon Ducks’ No. 2-ranked football team.
“Hopefully our football team will be playing way into January," Altman said. “So we don’t anticipate getting him until sometime mid-January. But Arik’s big. He’ll be physical."
Meanwhile, Oregon was awaiting word from the NCAA on the status of senior forward Arsalan Kazemi, who transferred from Rice in September. The Ducks submitted a waiver request to allow him to play immediately, but a decision may not come until mid-November.
Oregon opens its regular season on Nov. 10 at home against Northern Arizona. The Ducks open the Pac-12 portion of their schedule on Jan. 6 at rival Oregon State.