College Ties

Singler gets a charge out of brother’s star turn in Oregon’s upset win

Kyle Singler's younger brother, E.J., plays for Oregon.
Stephen Dunn/Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
MILWAUKEE – There’s nothing glamorous about a Tuesday night in November spent in Sacramento or a snowy February Thursday in Cleveland, so one of the delights for NBA players held prisoner to the schedule is finding their alma mater’s basketball game on TV while holed up in a road hotel.

Even better, perhaps, is finding a younger sibling’s game – on a night he stars and knocks off an undefeated, highly ranked team, then gets mobbed by students rushing the court.

Kyle Singler experienced that vicarious thrill on Thursday night in Milwaukee when he got to watch his younger brother, E.J., lead Oregon past 14-0 and No. 4 Arizona in a Pac-12 game.

“He had a great performance,” Singler said Friday after shootaround in preparation for tonight’s Pistons-Bucks game. “I saw them play the game before against Oregon State. It was my first time really seeing him play on TV. I really like their team. I know they weren’t thought of to be a team to win too many games in the Pac-12, but I think they’re in a great position. They’ve got a great coach who’s put a lot teams in the tournament and I think that’s their main goal this year.”

Kyle was two years ahead of E.J. in high school and they led Medford High to the 2007 Oregon state title, beating a team led by Kevin Love. Two of Singler’s cousins also were key members of the team. When Singler decided to return to Duke for his senior season after helping the Blue Devils win the 2010 NCAA title, Mike Krzyzewski rewarded him by scheduling a game against Oregon in Portland.

Kyle had a star turn that day, scoring 30 points on 9 of 15 shooting, hitting 5 of 9 from the 3-point line and a perfect 7 of 7 at the free-throw line in leading then-No. 1 and unbeaten Duke to a 98-71 rout of Oregon. E.J. had 14 points for the Ducks.

“It was a great game,” Singler recalled. “I’m thankful we were able to do it. It was a really next experience. We had a lot of family and friends at the game – and we ended up getting the best of them.”

Krzyzewski ran the first few plays of the game to get Singler going, he said, and his teammates seemed to look to set him up more than usual that day.

Singler’s Blue Devils are again undefeated and ranked No. 1, giving him current bragging rights on a roster filled with players from high-profile college programs. Tayshaun Prince and Brandon Knight of Kentucky and Charlie Villanueva and Andre Drummond of Connecticut come from traditional heavyweight programs currently unranked – though both lurk on the fringe of contention.

Austin Daye’s Gonzaga Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 9, Kim English’s Missouri Tigers are No. 10, Greg Monroe’s Georgetown Hoyas are No. 19 and Jason Maxiell’s Cincinnati Bearcats are No. 23. Will Bynum started at Arizona before transferring to Georgia Tech.

English is a voracious college basketball fan who frequently shares his observations via Twitter.

“I watch a lot of college games,” he said. “I used to watch more NBA on my free time when I was in college. Now it’s pretty much our next game, our next opponent. But I just like college games.”

English’s Final Four projection: Missouri, Michigan, Duke and Louisville, though he’s a little cautious about his beloved Tigers due to their unfamiliarity.

“None of them played with each other last year and only one of them (Phil Pressey) has ever played with coach Haith,” he said. “They’re doing a lot of learning of each other. The bumps and bruises will come, but I think they’ll be OK. They have a lot of raw talent.”

Singler – no surprise – likes Duke’s chances.

“I’ve caught them a few times on TV,” he said. “They look good. They’ve a very well-coached team. They’re going to compete for a national championship, I believe. Anything can happen in March, but I think they’ll be a very tough team to beat.”

Whenever a player’s college does well, his teammates are sure to hear about it – and a player whose school does a belly flop is sure to hear about it from teammates.

“Especially when we play against each other, there’s usually some friendly betting going on,” Singler said. “Those are all good programs, so you’ll probably find that throughout a lot of NBA teams.”