Season trains two freshmen
No matter how Oregon finishes in the Pacific-10 Conference tournament this weekend, freshmen Aaron Brooks and Mitch Platt will have learned some valuable lessons this season.
For Brooks, it's to not sock a basketball standard too hard. His punch at UCLA's basket in early January broke a small bone in his right wrist, and he missed 10 games.
'I've done it so many times É I've hit 10 times harder than that before,' the speedy point guard says. 'Everything happens for a reason, I guess. That gave me a lot of time to work on other stuff, like my left hand, passing, sitting on the bench and focusing on what's going on rather than being thrown into the fire.'
For Platt, the lesson is that he needs to work on his quickness, jumping ability and free-throw shooting (he made 15 of 45). Odd because he does everything else flat-footed fairly well Ñ like play basketball itself.
Admittedly not known for his quickness or jumping ability, Platt still made quite an impression with UO coaches and players once practice started last October. While everyone knew Brooks would play in his true freshman season, first impressions Ñ Luke Jackson's among them Ñ last summer said the 6-10 Platt likely would redshirt and 7-footer Ray Schafer would play. Instead, it was the other way around.
'When I saw (Platt) in the summer, he was out of shape and big,' Brooks says. 'But he really impressed everybody. He's a hard worker, and he's a big guy kind of like (Ike) Diogu, where he can finish with both hands and he's got a little jump hook.'
Great instincts, the Ducks say about Platt.
'I've tried to learn that basketball sense Ñ 'See it before it happens,' ' he says. 'That way, if it works out, eight out of 10 times you're in the right spot.'
Still, the rap on Oregon has been the big men's poor defense and rebounding, which obviously points to Platt and post Ian Crosswhite.
Brooks wonders how he could have affected games he missed, such as Oregon's 91-80 loss at Oregon State.
'We came out kind of flat. They got out on us, ran a little bit and got an early lead,' he says. 'Maybe I could have been an energizer.'
Brooks took plenty of jumpers, shooting .392 from 3-point territory, but his ability to penetrate and run the fast break makes all the difference for the Ducks. Coach Ernie Kent 'wants me to get the offense going, and I'm not the first option,' he says.
Next year, without Jackson, the Ducks will have many unknowns Ñ and no seniors.
'It'll be more of a collective effort,' Platt says, 'and we'll get scoring from three or four guys rather than relying on Luke to get 30.'