Dana Altman’s All-In Strategy On College Free Agents Is Paying Off For The Oregon Ducks

When former Portland prep star Mike Moser announced earlier this week that he was transferring from UNLV to the University of Oregon for his senior season, it barely moved the curiosity meter.

“Oh good,” Duck fans thought, “he ought to help the team.”

Before Dana Altman showed up in Eugene, UO basketball players arrived in town either toting their high school diplomas or the transcripts saying they did in fact complete their associate’s degree from that juco.

Rarely in those pre-Altman days did a transfer make a lasting impression – with the notable exception of Mr. Ivan Johnson. Anytime a transfer showed up, he brought with him questions about his character. Otherwise he likely wouldn’t have left the school at which he started.

But as the façade of the NCAA caring about academics has continued to fade, players are exploring their freedom more frequently.

Altman seems to spend more time recruiting on college campuses than he does in high school gyms. In his three years as Head Duck, he has now brought in seven players with either one or two years of eligibility.

And it’s not a bad strategy.

Elite high school players are no longer looking to play four years in college. That’s not new.

What Altman has done is embraced the one-and-done format popularized by John Calipari and manipulated it. Instead of banking on talented youngsters, he’s using his allotted one on players who are more mature, both mentally and physically.

The way Altman sees it, he will only have top-tier talent for one or two seasons anyway, so he’s scouring the field of seasoned collegiate veterans.

It paid off this year in the shape of Arsalan Kazemi, the transfer from Rice University who anchored Oregon’s run to the Sweet Sixteen, averaging 10 points and 15 rebounds during three tournament games and nearly averaging a double-double for the entire season.

Moser undoubtedly kept tabs on his home-state Ducks after his Runnin’ Rebels were bounced in the first round. He saw Kazemi having that success. Now he wants a piece of the pie.

By plugging Moser into Kazemi’s slot, Altman’s team will not miss a beat. Adding a 6-8 forward keeps the Ducks in contention to finish atop the Pac-12. There are also rumors floating about that Memphis big man Tarik Black may trade in his blue and white for yellow and green. 

These two guys have proven they can play at the collegiate level. If Black joins Moser in transferring to Oregon, Altman’s squad immediately adds six years of experience that have produced 18.3 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.

A pair of 18-year-olds would be hard-pressed to match that production. But if these two high-profile transfers match – or exceed – that level of play, you will see this trend proliferate. Coaches will look for the quick fix to take their team to the tournament by picking up transfers. That in turn will increase exposure for the program, thus increasing the desire for blue chippers to want to enroll in school as well as keeping the school appealing to those gifted transfers.

The farce of college athletes being student-athletes has been examined time and time again. Altman has decided to quit adhering to the myth. Instead he thinks of the NCAA as a pool of free agents. He takes the mindset of an NFL coach who is one or two pieces away from reaching the Super Bowl. To fill that void, he is looking to sign the best man available rather than building through the draft.

Or through high school recruiting; whatever you want to call it.

Kyle Boggs is on Twitter. Follow him at @KyleKBoggs

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