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Oregon Basketball: Don’t Hit Panic Button, Yet

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Ducks search for answers after losing six core players

Oregon v North Carolina Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Oregon basketball watched six core players from their rotation exit Eugene in the last week. Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis both graduated. Then, Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks and Jordan Bell declared for the NBA Draft, while Casey Benson decided to transfer.

Take a deep breath and stay positive. It’s all Duck fans have right now, aside from Payton Pritchard. Head coach Dana Altman should have no trouble staying busy this offseason.

Much of what happened in the last week was predicted by most. Of course, a majority in Oregon circles were optimistic that one, maybe two stars would stay for another year. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Benson’s departure was icing on the cake.

Six of Oregon’s 7-man rotation are gone. Right now, the West Linn product is the lone starter returning to the fold. Keith Smith and Roman Sorkin will be vying for more playing time in 2017-18.

As this was being published, Kavell Bigby-Williams was granted permission to transfer. Another one bites the dust. Wow. Can I finish an article before you transfer please?

‪According to a UO spokesman, KBW was granted a release for transfer. This does not mean that he will transfer, only that he has permission‬ to explore his opportunities.

Oregon v North Carolina
Payton Pritchard did not play like a true freshman in 2016-17. If it wasn’t for Markelle Fultz from Washington and Lonzo Ball at UCLA, the attention on Oregon’s finest would have been greater. The 2017 sophomore will be the lone returning starter from the 33-6 team this season.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Don’t panic, yet! Here are some reasons to be positive:

IN PAUL WE TRUST

Paul White committed to transfer to Oregon from Georgetown before the season. Due to transfer rules, he was forced to sit this season. Yet, he will have two years of eligibility beginning in 2017-18.

The 6-foot-9 forward from Chicago will be welcomed with open arms to the front court. He will add major versatility with a huge wingspan that will spread the floor against opposing defenses. In 2014, White was the No. 50 ranked high school basketball player in the country.

I watched him play in high school at Whitney Young in Chicago and he is the real deal. It’s never easy to win a state title, much less in Illinois. Yet, White led his Dolphin team to the 2014 IHSA State Championship. As a senior, he averaged 22.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 6.0 APG and 4.0 SPG. He is a multi-dimensional talent with uncanny passing ability.

EIGHT IS GREAT

That may not keep you warm at night, but the No. 8 recruiting class for 2017 should.

ROLL THE DICE

Personally, Troy Brown Jr. was my favorite prospect in the star-studded class well before he decided on Oregon. Overall, he reminds of Penny Hardaway, who was also a personal favorite of mine.

The Nevada product was the best high school point guard in 2016. At 6-foot-7, Brown can play at both guard spots, including the small forward position. He is the most versatile player on the current Duck roster. He is the second Top 10 prospect to commit to Oregon in program history, alongside Malik Hairston.

TEXAS SIZED ATHLETICISM

Victor Bailey Jr. and Abu Kigab are both 4-star projects that need some marinating. The son of an Olympian and a former NFL receiver, Bailey is ahead of Kigab in his development. The Texas resident should progress quickly with his explosively athletic skill-set.

TRAINING DAY

Kigab reminds me of Brooks, but he has a long road ahead of him before those comparisons become legit. He is very raw, but his lower body is strong already. His jumper looks good from the eye test, but it is inconsistent. With time and practice, he will be lethal from the field.

THE FUTURE NBA LOTTERY PICK

Currently, all attention is focused on No. 6 prospect Brandon McCoy. Rumors have circulated for weeks that he was leaning toward Oregon if one of the Duck stars departed for the NBA. Nevertheless, nobody thought four would exit in one week.

The Chicago product is the best big man in the 2017 class, in my opinion.

High School Basketball: 40th Annual McDonald's All-American Games
Brandon McCoy will make an impact wherever he commits for 2017. Currently, he is torn between Oregon, Michigan State, Arizona and UNLV. The 2017 McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic representative illustrated his skills during the showcase events.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

McCoy finds himself with a major dilemma. It’s really about mindset. Michigan State and Oregon are the frontrunners. Does the incoming freshman want to play a lesser role for a deep team with title hopes or does he want to be the man for an emerging brand that just played in the Elite Eight and Final Four in back-to-back seasons?

Coincidently, Tom Izzo was touring McCoy around East Lansing when Bell declared for the NBA this week. We can ONLY imagine the “pep” talk Izzo was giving the high school senior. Nevertheless, McCoy could surprise us and head for his third option, Arizona. I don’t envision him entertaining his fourth choice, UNLV, but it is Vegas.

However, McCoy’s legal guardian was the only coach of UNLV-commit Anthony Smith during his AAU career. Smith and McCoy are very close, which could make things interesting.

Additionally, signing McCoy would take stress off Bailey and Kigab to develop quicker than expected.

THE POWER OF FOUR

Oregon has four scholarship openings on the current roster. That is a lot of room to improve very quickly.

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?

Elijah Brown is the best transfer product available in college basketball. The New Mexico guard is the son of former NBA head coach, Mike Brown. The southpaw officially visited Eugene over the weekend.

He has the height of Dorsey at 6-foot-4. He has the mentality and demeanor of Brooks. He is multifaceted like Ennis. He is a lefty like Benson. The senior certainly could help fill some of the void, alongside adding significant experience and leadership.

If McCoy and Brown were to commit, Oregon basketball would be legitimate contenders to win the 2018 National Championship. Not to mention, the Ducks would have two more openings on the roster for scholarship players.

New Mexico v UNLV
Will Elijah Brown’s name be announced for Oregon during their 2017-18 starting line-ups? The New Mexico transfer is seeking the perfect landing-spot for his final season in college basketball. He is the son of former NBA head coach, Mike Brown.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Regardless of who commits, Oregon is swimming with the sharks now. This was the end result of two brilliant seasons that saw EIGHT Duck players head for water in professional basketball. Kids notice how well Oregon prepares their players for life after college. And kids tend to speak their mind, just ask Jordan Tucker.

THE LATE ADDITION

Tucker is another stud 4-star prospect on the Duck radar. He is teetering on the brink of being a 5-star product. Let’s call him a 4.5-star. The Georgia native is being heavily pursued by Syracuse, Villanova and Georgia Tech. Nevertheless, Tucker is showing more interest in Oregon since the departure of the “Big 3” to the NBA.

WOOT WOOT

Kenny Wooten is another player that is garnering more interest from UO. The 6-foot-9 power forward is a 4-star commit that seemed destined for UCLA or Kansas. He could end up as a Bruin in the end, but not without a late Duck push, naturally.

Two stars I’ve had my eye on are Duke freshman Chase Jeter and 5-star high school senior Brian Bowen.

CHASING JETER

Jeter is transferring for his sophomore campaign. I can’t envision a more-suitable replacement for Chris Boucher. At 6-foot-10 with versatility, Jeter will be an instant spark for the program he chooses. He would look great in green and yellow.

FROM INDIANA TO YOUR HOME

As for Bowen, anything is possible. He is a program-changing talent. Scouts tell me he is leaning toward Michigan State, but is taking his time with the decision process. He may commit to a loaded Arizona team that has Allonzo Trier returning next season. Creighton and DePaul have also been rumored with Tugs’ name.

AN ELITE BRAND

Oregon’s brand continues to grow. Elite basketball talent is now looking for residence in Eugene. If the Ducks strike out with some players, rest assured there are plenty of reinforcements chomping at the bit to play at Matthew Knight Arena. Altman is working with a much bigger canvas than the one he started with seven years ago.

It may be weird to read, but Oregon is joining the Kentucky’s of the world. No longer are the Ducks seeking 4-year players. The one-and-done elite NBA talent are now on the Oregon menu. It’s only a matter of time before Duck fans can enjoy their dessert.

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