Oregon coach Dana Altman said Sunday he’s hoping his star player, Dillon Brooks, will make his season debut this week — possibly as soon as Monday in the Ducks’ Maui Invitational opener against Georgetown.

“We’re hoping to get him on the floor a little bit in the tournament,” Altman said.

Brooks was a CBS Sports Preseason First Team All-American after averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season while leading Oregon to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. But offseason foot surgery has caused the 6-foot-7 forward to miss the Ducks’ first three games this season, including last Tuesday’s 66-49 loss at Baylor.

Oregon enters the Maui Invitational with a 2-1 record.

The Ducks are ranked 18th in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one).

Here are three ways Oregon should benefit from Brooks’ expected return:

1. It’s always good to have your leader in uniform

Altman called Brooks “our leader” in Sunday’s press conference, and every team is better when its leader is on the court and contributing. It’s hard to lead from the bench, as they say. So Brooks’ mere presence on the court, even if he’s rusty and not quite in game shape, should be an automatic lift — especially considering he’s not just a leader but also the Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year.

2. It’s always good to have your best offensive player in uniform

Brooks led Oregon in field goals attempted, field goals made and points per game last season while recording the highest usage rate on the team. In other words, the Ducks rely on him immensely. So even though they’ve been solid offensively through three games, it’s fair to suggest they’ve missed Brooks. Oregon only scored 49 points in last week’s loss at Baylor. That was the Ducks’ lowest point total since they scored 46 in a loss at California in February 2013.

3. It’s always good to have a healthy roster in a loaded tournament

Oregon might be able to beat Georgetown without Brooks because Georgetown is 1-2 with a loss to Arkansas State and just not great in general. But the Ducks will likely play No. 9 Wisconsin on Tuesday and could play No. 5 North Carolina on Wednesday. And to win either (or both) of those games, Oregon probably needs Brooks to play and play well. Without him, the Ducks won’t win the Maui Invitational. But with him, perhaps they can.


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