It doesn’t seem all that long ago that a “foreign born” basketball player competing for a US college or professional team was kind of a rarity. In fact, until the 1990s, the US could send a Men’s team of college players to the Olympics and win a Gold Medal virtually every time, its only real competition coming from the former Soviet Union. But then the game began to grow in popularity internationally, and the dominance of US college-level players came to an end. When the US Men’s team took the Bronze Medal in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, the nation’s Olympic Committee made the decision to “go pro” and send a team mostly comprised of NBA stars - The Dream Team - to the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games to compete against the largely professional foreign teams.
Women’s basketball had a later start – it was not contested at the Olympics until the 1976 Games in Montreal, and at the time there wasn’t a professional women’s league in the US. Nevertheless, the US team won Gold at two of the four Olympics in which it competed (the US boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games) prior to the founding of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1996.
Men’s and Women’s basketball is now a truly international sport. There are professional leagues all over the world, and players from the US play everywhere in the same way foreign-born players used to come to the US to compete. The most famous US athlete who has played abroad is probably Brittney Griner, a two-time Gold Medal winner and Phoenix Mercury player in the WNBA who was recently illegally detained in Russia while trying to leave the country after she had been playing in the Russian Premier League.
Over the years, Oregon has developed a program that attracts foreign-born players. The Ducks Women’s team currently has three such players, while the Men’s team sports four. The majority of these players are from Canada, but Mali and Australia are also represented.
Sharp-shooting Senior Guard Taya Hanson hails from Kelowna, British Columbia, East of Vancouver. Hanson played her high school ball at home before heading to Arizona State and then transferring to Oregon. Hansen has appeared in all 10 games for Oregon this season and is averaging 7 points per game in 17 minutes. Hanson has the 2nd highest 3-point shooting average on the team, .452, while going 14 – 31 from beyond the arc.
Fifth-year Guard Ahlise Hurst came to Oregon from Bendigo, Australia, about 90 miles outside Melbourne. Hurst played at New Mexico before coming to Eugene. In Oregon’s 10 games this season, Hurst is averaging 6.3 points and is shooting .381 from the 3-point line.
Phillipina Kyei played her high school ball at Crestwood Prep and grew up in Calgary, Alberta. At 6’8”, Kyei is the tallest woman to ever put on a Ducks uniform and stepped into the starting center spot this season. Kyei is a tough inside presence for Oregon with a quickly developing inside game. Kyei is averaging 9.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game this year. She leads the team in offensive rebounds, helping the Ducks extend possessions and getting some easy inside baskets.
Senior Center N’Faly Dante is one of 3 Pac-12 basketball players from the Republic of Mali in West Africa. He played his high school ball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas. Dante is Oregon’s starting center and second leading scorer at 12.8 points per game while shooting almost 60 percent from the field. He also leads Oregon in rebounding at about 6 per game and is second in blocked shots.
Junior Guard Keeshawn Barthelemy hails from Montreal originally and came to Oregon after three seasons with the Colorado Buffaloes. He played for Team Canada at the U17 FIBA World Cup. Barthelemy has been limited by injury this season, appearing in only 4 games for the Ducks. Nevertheless, Barthelemy is averaging 8.5 points per game and fans are looking forward to his return to action.
Fellow Montreal product Senior Forward Quincy Guerrier played two seasons for the Syracuse Orangemen before coming to Eugene last year. This season, Guerrier is Oregon’s third-highest scorer at 10.7 points per game. This includes the second-highest 3-point shooting average, not that common for a player who is 6’8”. Guerrier is not afraid to cast off from beyond the arc and is 21 – 57 (.368) this year. He also averages almost 5 rebounds per game.
Toronto, Ontario product Redshirt Freshman Forward Ethan Butler has yet to appear in an Oregon uniform. Butler is one of several Ducks rehabbing from injury this season.
Internationally, basketball is likely to continue its exponential growth. With more and more talented players being “discovered” there, the NBA has begun and is developing an African league and has also forged a controversial relationship with China where the NBA game is very popular. Oregon’s recruiting trips might generate a huge number of “frequent flyer miles” for the Ducks coaching staffs in years to come.