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Loss of star adds to woes for UO women

It hasn't been the most stable of seasons for the Oregon women's team.

Coach Bev Smith suspends, and then officially boots All-American candidate Shaquala Williams from the team. Another player, Amy Parrish, leaves for medical reasons. And now the Ducks face the prospect of playing without star junior Cathrine Kraayeveld for 12 games.

Kraayeveld missed last week's Pacific-10 Conference games against UCLA and USC after being diagnosed with a staph infection in her knee. She's being treated with antibiotics, and drugs and rest are needed for the swollen and sore knee.

The 6-4 Kraayeveld was averaging 16.7 points (third, Pac-10), 11.7 rebounds (second) and 2.7 blocks (first). She shot 52 percent on 3-pointers.

Ironically, the Ducks' marketing department had recently replaced Williams' larger-than-life banner on the side of McArthur Court with É a banner featuring Kraayeveld. Forget the Sports Illustrated jinx; for football and women's basketball, it hasn't been a banner year at the U of O. Maybe Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson should be worried.

The Ducks, 5-6 headed into this week's games, do have a bright future if their young talent matures and improves. Oregon has one senior (Alissa Edwards), and 6-0 sophomore Brandi Davis could be one of the Pac-10's best by next year. Davis has been erratic, however, shooting only .355 from the field while averaging 10.4 points.

Beavs: How good are they?

Oregon State will find out soon, as the Pac-10 men's basketball season got under way this week. The Beavers play the Arizona schools first, with the No. 4-ranked Arizona Wildcats making a visit to Gill Coliseum on Saturday.

First-year coach Jay John, a former Arizona assistant, doesn't expect miracles. He knows that the talent needs to get better, but the Beavers think they can do some damage in the Pac-10 if they get the ball to Philip Ricci and Brian Jackson in the interior and knock down some outside shots to keep opposing defenses honest.

The Beavers went 7-2 in non-league play against weak competition, but here are some positive signs for John's team: Shooting .714 on free throws, second in the Pac-10; plus-8.5 rebounding margin, and the Beavers haven't been in the conference's top 5 on the boards since 1989-90; 61 percent of their points have come off assists; and the Beavs average 70 points, which they've done only twice since 1992-93.

Pilots: How good are they?

Portland (6-5) has matched its win total from last season with two nonleague games left: at Eastern Washington on Saturday and at Montana State on Monday. The Pilots have won three games in a row Ñ beating PSU, Northern Arizona and Long Beach State.

Coach Michael Holton's team, as expected, hasn't rebounded well (minus-9.5 margin) and, surprisingly, hasn't shot well (.384, .295 on 3-pointers), but there have been some encouraging signs on The Bluff as well.

Any team that plays uptempo, attacks the basket aggressively and shoots free throws well will win games. Just look at Oregon. The Pilots have shot 83 percent from the free-throw line in the past four games and .767 overall. The leaders: Adam Quick, .931; Eugene Jeter, .862; Donald Wilson, .818; and Casey Frandsen, .769.

The Pilots are also averaging nine steals, 15 assists and only 15 turnovers per game (plus-4.4 turnover margin).

PSU'S plight

The Vikings (2-7) are experiencing growing pains in coach Heath Schroyer's first year. Ben Coffee and Troy DeVries have left the team. Seamus Boxley missed the first five games while recovering from offseason hand surgery. A sore left hand forced him out of the New Mexico Invitational.

And, it appears that freshman Marshal Hartman will take a redshirt year after suffering a badly bruised left knee. The Westview product had played in only five games, which makes him still eligible to redshirt.

Schroyer didn't need to look far for reinforcement. Jeff Eischen, a 6-8 center/forward and former walk-on from Hillsboro High, had been serving as a student assistant after a heart arrhythmia kept him out of action last year.

But Eischen, who has a small defibrillator in his chest, put the uniform back on, played 14 minutes in his debut against Portland and started both games in the New Mexico Invitational.