Comes From: St. John’s University, New York
There are three known certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Oregon Ducks basketball team reloading with players from the transfer portal. The most recent addition, LJ Figueroa out of St. John’s, figures to make Oregon’s stable of guards one of the deepest and most talented groups in college basketball. Figueroa spent the last two seasons with the Red Storm after spending his first year in the JUCO ranks at Odessa Junior College. Much like fellow newbie Amauri Hardy, Figueroa was one of the leading scorers for his team last season, and figures to give the Ducks more firepower off the bench, assuming he is immediately eligible for the 2020-21 season.
When you watch Figueroa play, there is one thing that is very apparent. He oozes confidence. While leading the team with 14.5 ppg, it became clear that there is no shot he won’t take, whether it’s a deep three or driving into the paint and past a big man, LJ plays like the alpha. He was their go-to guy, the player they looked to when they needed a bucket. While he might not have that role with Oregon, it never hurts to have that mentality on your bench. Imagine a big game where it’s close late in the game, and either Will Richardson or Chris Duarte is fouled out. Down by two with seconds left and you need a big shot. Figueroa has the mentality for that moment. He might make it, he might miss it, but he isn’t the kind of player who second guesses that decision.
LJ is a thief. There, I said it. Figueroa led the Big East in steals last year with 1.9 per game, which was good for 36th nationally. He had 12 games in 2019-20 where he recorded at least 3 steals with a high of 7 coming against conference foe Seton Hall. He was a defensive catalyst for St. John’s last year, clearly buying into new head coach Mike Anderson’s defensive style of constant pressure on opponents. If Dana Altman can get LJ to adjust to his zone-based defense, he could once again be a tremendous force on the defensive end.
If Figueroa plays his cards right, he has the chance to make an impact right away. When he announced his intent to transfer to Oregon, New York was one of the biggest hotspots in the country for Covid-19. Citing it’s impact on the city could allow the NCAA to grant him immediate eligibility, instead of having to sit out a year and return in 2021-22. Doing so would be an enormous win for the Ducks. To add Figueroa to a roster with Richardson, Duarte, Hardy, etc. would create a monster rotation for Oregon’s backcourt, loaded with experience and talent. While we don’t yet know LJ’s fate as far as eligibility, we can hope for the best.