After five weeks of being without their top recruit and most talented guard, the Oregon Ducks are nearing the full return of freshman point guard Dominic Artis. What first seemed like a three-to-five game absence has turned into over a month of confusion and adjustments for head coach Dana Altman.
Artis hasn’t been in the lineup as a starter since Jan. 23 against Washington State for the Ducks, and what followed seemed to be the end of Oregon’s PAC-12 Conference title aspirations. In the next four games, Oregon lost three-of-four, and committed 65 turnovers in the three game losing skid which included Stanford, California and Colorado.
Instead of crumbling in the face of adversity, Oregon won five of their next six, and have weathered the absence of Artis. Johnathon Loyd and Damyean Dotson appear to be gaining confidence with increased minutes, which will be a major asset for the Ducks once Artis fully returns later in March.
Before Oregon’s game with Oregon State, Artis was seen taking shots and running through drills with the team, which was the first image of the guard without a walking boot in over a month. Coach Altman has Artis on a minute-count system off the bench in order to ease Artis back into game-time situations.
Artis played 12 minutes for the Ducks against the Beavers in the win, scoring six points and shooting 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. Artis’ perimeter threat has been greatly missed as both Loyd and Dotson have struggled from three.
“We’re going to have a set number (of minutes). I’m not sure what that’s going to be,” said Altman before his team’s match-up with Oregon State. “I’m going to sit down with the trainers and doctors before the game and kind of like a pitch count and see where it is.”
Oregon (23-6, 12-4 PAC-12) will likely face Colorado on March 7 without a large contribution from Artis, but won’t want to change too much of the game plan before conference play ends. The Ducks sit tied once again atop the PAC-12 with No. 23 UCLA, while Cal sits .5 games behind.
John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports, covering the PAC-12 and Mountain West conferences. John works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in addition to Rant Sports. Follow: @engelsportsguy.