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Is Jackson Shelstad A Generational Point Guard For Oregon Men’s Basketball?

How does Shelstad compare to another great Oregon freshman, Luke Ridnour?

Syndication: The Register Guard Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

I was watching Oregon MBB at MKA a week and a half ago, against the LA schools. What struck me in particular was the play of Jackson Shelstad, Oregon’s freshman PG. He was the fastest player on the Ducks, and maybe on the court; made some excellent assists, and can be an assassin when knocking down a bucket. I thought to myself while watching those games that he looks like the best freshman PG we’ve had since Luke Ridnour.

At least that’s what my eyes were telling me - but is there any substantiation to the eye test?

Ridnour’s freshman season was 2000-01. He was a star recruit from Blaine, WA. and highly touted as a freshman. 20+ years later, Oregon fans will remember him for leading the Ducks into the NCAA tournament in successive years, but he and the Ducks struggled in his freshman season. Oregon finished 14-14 (5-13 Pac-10, T-6th), and won most of their non-conference games, only dropping a close road game against Auburn.

When the Ducks hit the meat of their Pac-10 schedule, however, they faltered; really, the only bright spot was a home win against (at the time) #7 Arizona.

Ridnour showed flashes of the brilliance we saw in the following years. If you were there at Mac Court back then, you would know what I mean. Brilliance, but he was still just a freshman - still learning college ball, and still learning his game.

Here are Luke Ridnour’s statistical averages per game in 2000-01:

Luke Ridnour Freshman Per-Game Averages

2000-2001 G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK T/O PF PTS
2000-2001 G GS MP FG FGA FG% 2P 2PA 2P% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK T/O PF PTS
Game Averages 28 28 30.3 2.1 6.2 0.339 1.1 2.7 0.4 1 3.5 0.293 2.2 2.8 0.792 0.5 2 2.5 3.8 1 0.1 2.4 2.1 7.4

Ridnour started and played in all of the season’s games. Bryan Bracey and Fred Jones were the leading scorers, and for the season Ridnour was the fifth-highest per-game scorer (after Luke Jackson).

In successive seasons, Ridnour drastically elevated his game. After this freshman season, he knew this kind of output wasn’t going to help get his team dancing, and the legend of Luke Ridnour the gym rat was born, because it was after this season that Ridnour figured out how to get into Mac Court at night so he could practice, and practice some more, and then practice more.

Syndication: The Register Guard Chris Pietsch/The Register Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jackson Shelstad has neither played every game this season, nor has started in every game he’s played. He did not start the season due to a knee injury, and missed the first four games of the season. He played limited minutes against Santa Clara and Alabama and became a starter against Michigan and has started since.

in his first start against Michigan, Shelstad played for 28 minutes, and shot 6-13 for 46.2%, including 2-3 from distance, for 14 points (he did not reach the line that game). He had no rebounds but did have a blocked shot.

Starting with UTEP, Shelstad has been starting and playing 32+ minutes each game. Here are his per-game averages for his starts:

Jackson Shelstad Per-Game AVG, Starts Only

Games Played FGM/A FG% 3FG/A 3PT% FTM/A FT% RB AVG PF AVG T/O AVG PTS AVG
Games Played FGM/A FG% 3FG/A 3PT% FTM/A FT% RB AVG PF AVG T/O AVG PTS AVG
12/2 - 1/6 57/108 57.80% 16/38 42.10% 15/19 78.90% 2.33 1.44 2.33 16.11

Unfortunately, an exact comparison at similar points of the season is not possible between Ridnour and Shelstad, simply because individual game statistics for individual players are not available from 2000. Regardless, what we have to work with is interesting.

Syndication: The Register Guard Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Shelstad and Ridnour have comparable stats when it comes to turnovers, personal fouls, and rebounds. Ridnour was an excellent shooter at the line, and so far edges Shelstad.

But man oh man, is Shelstad a shooter. In FGs and PPG, he has compiled some impressive numbers, and they are all the more impressive when compared to Ridnour. And unlike the 2000-01 team that only played .500 ball, and did not have a great showing in conference play, Shelstad’s output is a key reason why the Ducks are 12-3 and 4-0 in the Pac-12. His numbers, at this point anyway, are nothing short of amazing.

Jackson Shelstad is churning up statistics that - so far - not only arguably eclipse Luke Ridnour’s freshman season, but rival what Ridnour was doing in 2001-02 and 2002-03. And he’s doing it as a freshman. Although Ridnour stepped up his game after his freshman year, I don’t recall him popping off the long ball from nearly across Franklin Blvd. like this (but I could be wrong. That was a long time ago):

It would appear that my eyes were not deceiving me. I’ve seen all the freshman PG stars that Oregon has put on the floor including and since Ridnour, and the stats underscore just how well Shelstad is playing. I will follow this up at the end of the season with seasonal comparisons of Shelstad against some of the other greats that have played at Oregon in the past 20+ years.

So is Jackson Shelstad a generational talent for the Oregon Ducks? At this point the potential is certainly there, and it will be interesting to see how far Shelstad and Oregon men’s basketball can go, in this and in future seasons. But thus far we can safely lean toward answering “Yes” to that question.