Eugene – with football fever in the air it may seem a bit premature to start taking a look at the new-look men’s hoops roster for the Ducks, y’know, the one featuring the highest-rated recruiting class in school history? But before we get to skim through the 2018-19 schedule that will most likely feature a couple exhibition games barely over two months away we’ll have to get familiar with this shiny new roster assembled by the only man at UO who’s as hot in the recruiting realm as Mario Cristobal: Dana Altman.
Unlike this past season Oregon will see more than one impact player returning to the court. While Troy Brown elected to pursue his NBA dream by becoming Oregon’s first ever one-and-done, his fellow classmates Kenny Wooten and Victor Bailey Jr. are returning along with forward Paul White and junior point guard Payton Pritchard.
At the floor general position Pritchard has been consistent the last couple seasons, particularly last year when he was forced into a much heavier leadership role due to the departure of the other four starters from Oregon’s heralded 2017 team. Joining him will be another floor maestro who’s keeping up the Altman tradition of impact transfers; point guard Ehab Amin from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, who last year led the nation in steals, averaging 3.4 a game. 4-star Freshman PG Will Richardson joins the fray as well, leaving Bailey Jr. to perhaps assume more of a hybrid guard role such as Dylan Ennis did in 2017, since Oregon would still like to utilize his immense athleticism. Redshirt sophomore Luke Osborn and Redshirt freshman Will Johnson round out the guards.
Next are the forwards, where Oregon is as stacked as it has ever been in its history. Pac 12 block leader Kenny Wooten returns to anchor either the 4 or 5 spot depending where he is needed along with stretch 4 Paul White, whose experience from his tenure with Georgetown proved invaluable to last year’s young roster. Brown’s role will be filled by 5-star freshman phenom and co-class headliner Louis King, whose style is very similar to Brown’s although King is taller at 6’9”. King Louie will be joined by dual 4-star freshman forwards Miles Norris and Francis Okoro, the latter of which was able to reclassify from the class of 2019 to 2018, thus bolstering this year’s roster even more. Last but not least is returning forward Abu Kigab, the defensive sparkplug off the bench who I expect to see a lot more of this coming season due to his increasing productivity as last year progressed.
Finally we have the one true Center in 5-star freshman and co-class headliner Bol Bol, who came to Eugene as the #3 recruit in the nation. Standing at 7’2” with an even longer wingspan Bol will perhaps be a rim protector like Oregon has never seen, and his offensive skill set for a young man of that size is impressively smooth.
Verdict: this should be a VERY fun group to watch. As mentioned Oregon is bringing in its highest rated recruiting class ever and though past teams have proved that it sometimes takes a year or two for freshman classes to reach their true potential, the amount of returning impact players makes the transition much smoother. Pritchard and Amin should easily be able to command the offense and influence the flow of the game with their experience and leadership while Bailey Jr. and Richardson can slide over to the two-guard spot and provide an offensive prowess Elijah Brown and Tyler Dorsey helped make a trademark at the position. With King’s skill set and size I expect him to easily merge into the role Troy Brown and Dillon Brooks previously occupied and having another forward with experience behind him in Kigab should make his job noticeably easier than Brown’s. Then you have the big men and Oregon will suddenly be blessed with essentially the “Tall Firs” 2.0. With a monster like Bol lurking and Wooten being able to jump out of the gym Oregon could be looking at a block party to rival the famous Bell/Boucher combination. Okoro is a low post bruiser who can provide the kind of role Mikyle McIntosh and Jordan Bell manned the last couple seasons. That leaves stretch 4s White and Norris to strut their stuff. White has already proven himself a silky smooth presence from the 3-point line and Norris’ length coupled with his inside/outside game makes him very reminiscent of Chris Boucher.
Top this all off with Altman’s proven ability to finish season’s strong and have his players at their best come March and I could easily see this Oregon team battling for a conference championship and making a Sweet Sixteen or even Elite Eight run.