The days are winding down in the month of October, which means that basketball season is just around the corner. Dana Altman met with the media for the first time in the 2021-22 season to speak about his new team and the development of chemistry and camaraderie now that the team can spend time with each other again.
One player that is slowly but surely working his way back to be on the court again is junior center N'Faly Dante, who missed all but six games last season due to a torn ACL suffered on Dec. 17. ACL tears typically require about a nine-month recovery, although every recovery is different, and as it has been about 10 months since the surgery, Altman said that Dante isn't quite ready to be on the floor just yet.
"I'd say we're at least a month, six weeks away from getting him, but that's just a guess," Altman said of Dante. "I think that a lot of it will depend on his continued progress, but he has worked awfully hard.
"Now it's just a matter of him gradually working back to some kind of condition and some kind of comfort level and the doctors and trainers saying that he's ready."
The Ducks have yet to see the former 5-star recruit for an entire season, as he missed the first 10 games of his freshman year due to NCAA eligibility rules and missed five weeks that same year due to a knee injury, limiting him to 12 games.
Last year, Dante was even more limited as he suffered the season-ending knee injury just six games into the season. He was on pace to have a great year as well, averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds with a more than four-minute per game increase from his freshman year.
The Ducks won't get to see Dante for a full year for the third season in a row, as with Altman's estimate, he likely won't return until late November or early December.
Unlike last year, Oregon has plenty of size that will be able to fill in for Dante while he recovers, including Franck Kepnang and freshmen Nathan Bittle and Isaac Johnson. Altman said that Kepnang was slowed down by a sprained ankle during the offseason but is back and working hard every day.
"I think his skill level is improved," Altman said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence that last year gave him."
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Johnson, a 7-footer from Utah, hasn't played competitive basketball for two years because of a mission trip. Altman said that his progress will take time as he works back to form.
"I think he's doing great," Altman said. "He gets frustrated a little bit because it's not going as quickly as he wants it to."
Once Dante gets back, the Ducks will own one of the biggest and most physical frontcourts in the country, but with other elite talent playing around him, he'll have to prove that he can play to the level that he was recruited at.
"If you ask Dante, he's ready to go, but it will be a very conservative approach in making sure that he is ready to go," Altman said.
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