Singler finally gets his turn in Indy spotlight
Three years ago as an Oregon freshman, E.J. Singler was in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium, watching his older brother Kyle win the 2010 NCAA championship with Duke.
At the time, E.J. envisioned being the player celebrating on that court. Now he gets his chance.
The No. 12-seeded Ducks play No. 1 Louisville in the Midwest Regional semifinals today (7:15 p.m., WRAL) in the same arena where the Blue Devils won their fourth NCAA title.
“This was a place that I got to see three years ago and I was like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool; I would want to get to play in a place like this,’” Singler said. “Finally, (my) dream came true and we’re playing in it on Friday.”
It may not have seemed likely at the time — Singler had just finishing up a 16-16 year with Oregon, and 13-year coach Ernie Kent would be fired in May. But the Ducks have improved each year under Dana Altman, going from 21-18 to 24-10 to 26-8, and won the Pac 12 tournament this season to guarantee a spot in the NCAA field.
Oregon won the first NCAA championship in 1939 — the Ducks took that trophy to Indianapolis with them — but has won only eight tournament games since.
That equals the number of national championships won by the remaining three teams in the Midwest region — No. 2 Duke has four, while No. 3 Michigan State and Louisville have two each.
“Oregon’s definitely not up to that part of just the history, but we’re definitely excited we’re a part of it right now,” Singler said. “And being able to play against teams like this, this is where we want to be and I feel like this is where we’re supposed to be.”
A first-team All-Pac-12 selection, Singler is the school’s all-time winningest player, with 89 career victories. He also leads the team in scoring and has served as a role model to younger players.
“Coach told me when I was getting recruited here, spend time around E.J. because he knows what it takes to really be successful at this level,” Oregon freshman Ben Carter said.
E.J. said that Kyle, who plays for the Detroit Pistons, has been too busy to call during the tournament run, but has texted him to say how proud he was.
E.J. was wearing Duke gear with his family when the Blue Devils beat Butler in 2010. In his senior season, he’s finally getting to experience the tournament as a player.
“It was an unbelievable experience getting to see my brother and Duke play for the national championship, and it was somewhere I have always wanted to go,” E.J. said. “So we have a couple more games before we get there, but this is a pretty special place where we are now.”