March 19, 2013 by awbutler
With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12′s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.
In the spring of 2010, coming off their second straight bottom two finish in the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks fired their all-time winningest head coach, Ernie Kent. Oregon would take well over a month to name a successor, and in that time, transfer after transfer decimated the Oregon program. In all, five players left Oregon, with no incoming recruits having been signed as Dana Altman took over as head coach in April. Only one of the holdovers was an underclassmen. That player was E. J. Singler.
Singler committed to Oregon even as they were coming off a 2-16 conference season in 2008-09. The Oregon 6A player of the year at South Medford, he was more known for being Kyle’s little brother, although he has been a good player in his own right. He imprinted himself on the team right away, becoming a starter his freshman year, and earning a reputation as a guy who does a little bit of everything—shooting 45% from the field while finishing third on the team in rebounds and assits.
But it was after Altman took over that Singler really began to assert himself. The 2010-11 Ducks may have been one of the least talented Pac-12 squads ever assembled. The roster looked straight out of the bottom half of the Big Sky. Only two players, Singler and Joevan Catron, would sniff the floor on a team that was even halfway decent. But the team ran everything through E.J., who was second on the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocks, and somehow led the team to a 20 win season. More transfers ensued, leaving only two players from the Ernie Kent era still on the team two seasons after his departure.
This season, Singler is the lone remaining player from the Kent era, the lone four-year senior on the roster. In the most tumultuous time in Oregon history, a four-year stretch in which the Ducks fired their all-time winningest coach, opened a new arena after over 80 seasons at Mac Court, and saw 12 players transfer out of the Oregon program, E.J. has been our rock. He has been the one consistent thing about this program, the one face that has seen through the entire time of transition.
E.J.’s numbers are down across the board this season, as he has been battling a pretty bad case of knee tendonitis all year. However, he is still the unquestionable leader of the squad. Despite missing out on the conference title, he still likely has led this team to the NCAA Tournaement for the first time since 2008, and the program back to being respectable. The most anybody can do is hope to leave a place better than how they found it. E.J. is the one player over the last handful of seasons who has really left a lasting mark on Oregon basketball, and the program is in a much better place for it.