A footnote to this Thursday's regional tourney game is the fact that Oregon is still in the running for McDonald's All-American Aaron Gordon, a native of San Jose. For those who don't know, Gordon is a five star forward and consensus top-10 basketball recruit nationally. He is a program changing talent the likes of which Oregon basketball has never seen. Malik Hairston he is not.
The player Gordon most often draws comparisons to is Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, but with a higher basketball IQ. He is a highly athletic forward who can post up or create off the dribble. As a Junior in high school, Gordon was named "Mr. Basketball" in the state of California. The only other players to earn that distinction as Juniors were Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler.
But stop reading for a moment and just ponder this guy in a Ducks uniform next year:
Gordon recently announced that he will make his decision after the McDonald's All-American game on April 3rd. Besides Oregon his finalists are Arizona, Kentucky, and Washington. So, what are Oregon's chances? I think they're actually pretty good.
A likely one-and-done player, Gordon has said that he is looking for early playing time. Both Arizona and Kentucky have a wealth of talent returning from this year's teams, including blue chip front court players, that could cut into his minutes. Washington is in desperate need of frontcourt help, but at Oregon Gordon could step in immediately at his preferred position, power forward, as Waverly Austin figures to be the starting center.
Gordon also wants the opportunity to win right away. He would get that at Arizona and Kentucky, who both return a ton of talent and figure to have rebound years next season. But Oregon would also be thinking about a Pac-12 title and deep tourney run should Gordon choose the Ducks. He would be joining arguably the most talented backcourt in the Pac-12 next season, which includes his former teammate Dominic Artis.
It's also thought that Gordon wants to stay on the West Coast. I am definitely biased, but when you add it all up -- playing time, preferred position, ability to win, location -- Oregon seems like an ideal destination. It's also worth noting that Oregon was a late add to Gordon's list of finalists, suggesting that they could be the "team of the moment".
Another thing in the Ducks' favor: no brand is hotter than Oregon right now for athletics. Eugene is enjoying an unprecedented run of success in a variety of sports, fueled largely by the Nike empire and world class academic and training facilities.
Anything can happen and regardless of Gordon's decision, Oregon has already fielded a nice recruiting class. But Gordon would take it from good to great and immediately elevate the Ducks nationally heading into next season. It sure wouldn't hurt to win a game or two in his hometown this weekend.