Oregon Men’s Basketball has been on fire with their recruiting recently, having just landed commitments from 5-star forwards Kwame Evans and Mookie Cook, and being talked about as a potential destination for famous NBA stars’ sons Bronny James and Andrej Stojakovic.
But perhaps the most potential for longevity as a Duck lies with 4-star point guard Jackson Shelstad, a home-grown product from West Linn.
Obviously we all know what happened the last time a point guard from West Linn suited up for the Ducks. Payton Pritchard grew as a player and as a leader during his four year tenure in Eugene, becoming one of the most notable MBB players in Oregon history.
Often considered “too short” or “not athletic enough” to become a productive player in the NBA, Pritchard has been lighting it up as one of the first options off the bench for the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics.
Could Shelstad follow in his footsteps? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but there are similarities.
Obviously the most glaring is that they are both 4-star point guards from West Linn. Both are considered slightly undersized for current NBA standards (although so is future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul for that measure). But perhaps most importantly, both are scrappy and can create shots for themselves with their ball handling.
Shelstad has even been referred to by scouts as an “Auto Bucket”.
In a day in age where 5-star basketball players so often use the NCAA as a one-year springboard to a professional career, Shelstad likely presents the best opportunity in Oregon’s stacked 2023 class to become more of a long-term leader like Pritchard had been.
Firstly, 4-star players can make just as big of an impact as 5-star players, if not often more so, but because of that missing star they sometimes don’t have quite as lofty expectations for immediate professional success and appreciate their successes at the collegiate level more.
Secondly, like Pricthard, Shelstad is an in-state product and therefore would be more likely to feel a larger sense of loyalty to the program.
And lastly, the return of Will Richardson gives Shelstad an opportunity to play with and be mentored by one of the longest-tenured players in Oregon MBB history. If there’s anything Shelstad can learn from Richardson, it’s what to expect from the journey of playing out your full eligibility in the NCAA.
Of course, this could just as easily be wishful thinking. If Shelstad experiences immediate success there’s no reason he couldn’t quickly make the jump to the next level. But there’s something about those home-grown boys (Pritchard, Justin Herbert, Joey Harrington) that at least makes you believe they may well be in for the long haul.