EUGENE, Ore.- Not only was Oregon’s freshman point guard sans-boot for the first time in five weeks, Dominic Artis took part in individual shooting drills prior to Tuesday’s practice, exhibiting the stroke that made him such an offensive asset earlier this season.
Following Saturday’s victory over Stanford, an uncannily optimistic Dana Altman gave everything but a guarantee that Artis would return Thursday against state-rival Oregon State and he appears to be right. While Altman didn’t come out and say it, the point was certainly made when the Oregon coach detailed a “pitch count” Artis would likely receive Thursday, saying “they’d take it really slow” in bringing him back.
“We’re going to have a set number [of minutes],” Atlman said. “I’m not sure what that’s going to be. I’m going to sit down the with the trainers and doctors before the game and kind of like a pitch count and see where it is.”
Artis practiced with the team Monday, for the first time in over a month, but was limited to individual drills.
“You couldn’t see much [Monday] when he practiced with us, just because he hasn’t been playing in a while,” said teammate E.J. Singler. “It’s just going to take him a while to get back in his groove. We’re just happy that he’s with us again and I hope his turnaround is quick.”
Oregon (22-6, 11-4) was 6-0 in Pac-12 play prior to the foot injury, during that span he averaged just over ten points per contest, but more importantly was 10-18 from three point-range in his last five games.
How much did the Ducks miss Artis, following his last action on Jan. 23 versus Washington State?
With Artis, the Ducks had averaged 72.8 points per game, shot 44.8 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from deep and turned it over just over 12 times per conference game. Without him, the scoring dropped to 64.3, they shot 42.4 percent, 23.8 percent from deep and threw the ball around an average of nearly 16 times per game.
Never was his absence more apparent than in the Ducks four conference losses. In defeats at Stanford, at California and home losses to Colorado and Cal, the Ducks scored just 51 points per game and shot a putrid 35.7 percent from the field.
With limited minutes to start while Artis recovers and reestablishes himself with his teammates, Altman anticipates using both Artis and junior Johnathan Loyd, who has stepped into Artis’ role, for major point guard minutes.
“I think he and Johnny are a really good combination. I think they compliment each other very well and so Johnny will still have to play a major role, for a few weeks anyway,” he said.
Altman anticipates his availability to increase up until the Pac-12 tournament when he hopes to have Artis back at close to 100 percent.
“If we can gradually bring him back this week and then two games next week, I think by conference tournament we’re looking like he’s pretty much back. That’s a number of practices and three games. We’re hoping that by the conference tournament he’s full speed.”
The reason for demonstrating patience, Altman says, is to ensure that the injury doesn’t become a long-term one, as Artis is part of a nucleus of key youngsters who will be great importance for years to come.
“We want to win every ball game…we could’ve brought him back maybe a couple of weeks ago and, but he’s a freshman we want to build around. I mentioned that last week, he and Dot [Damyean Dotson] and Ben [Carter] those are players we can build around, and I want him to be healthy.”