EUGENE — There was never any doubt that Oregon would need Ahmaad Rorie to contribute right away.
After originally committing last fall to play basketball at California, the Tacoma native changed his mind when Mike Montgomery retired after the season.
The 6-foot-1 point guard was released from his letter of intent by new Cal coach Cuonzo Martin in May, just about the time Oregon dismissed guards Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson from the team following a sexual assault investigation. Point guard A.J. Lapray transferred to Pepperdine before that, leaving the Ducks shorthanded in the backcourt.
After three weeks back in the recruiting process, Rorie committed to the Ducks knowing there was no true point guard on the roster.
“I knew I would play right away so I wanted to come in and lead right away even though I am a freshman,” Rorie said. “You can lead however old you are, that is how I looked at it.”
Oregon senior guard Joseph Young had a similar message for all four Oregon freshmen. With only nine scholarship players on the roster, he told the newcomers that everyone had to come in ready to play and act like an upperclassman, not a rookie.
“I listened to Joe a lot, he respects me and I respect him,” Rorie said.
Rorie started the first 10 games this season before coming off the bench behind fellow freshman Casey Benson in the past two games for the Ducks (9-3), who close out the nonconference slate at home at 8 p.m. Monday against UC Irvine. Alex Young, the former Phoenix High standout, leads the Anteaters.
Rorie scored 10 points in his first college game, a 107-65 win over Coppin State, and has been in double figures in five games while ranking sixth on the team with 6.8 points per game. He is third on the team with 27 assists and also averages 3.1 rebounds per game.
“He is making progress, I like the direction he and Casey are going,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “They give us good guard play and their assist-to-turnover ration is good. Ahmaad needs to improve his shooting percentages a bit, but I think that will come.”
Rorie played his first two prep seasons at Clover Park High School and helped his team win the Washington Class 2A title as a freshman.
He transferred to Lincoln High School and averaged 21 points per game as a junior and 15 points as a senior.
Rorie is shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range at Oregon.
“I feel like my shooting percentage can go up and my turnovers can go down,” said Rorie, who has 19 turnovers.
Rorie’s best performance came in a 77-70 win at Illinois, Oregon’s most impressive victory so far this season in front of 13,759 at United Center in Chicago. He scored a season-high 11 points with three rebounds and two assists.
“That was a hostile crowd,” Rorie said.
Rorie put pressure aside with 1:31 left in the game and made three straight free throws to push Oregon’s lead to 71-64.
“For him to knock down three free throws there was huge,” Altman said. “He made some big plays against Illinois.”
Rorie said the instant confidence from Altman to give him important minutes has helped him adjust to the college game.
“Coach Altman put a lot in my head about coming out and playing hard every day to get the job done,” he said. “I try to learn new things every day and help bring something new to the team.”
There have been plenty of new experiences for the Ducks this year with six players preparing to make their Pac-12 Conference debut next month. The three returnees — Young, Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit — each has just one previous year of experience in the program.
“We just have to come together as a family,” Rorie said. “Joe and Elgin and Jalil are all good leaders. We try to come out and listen to them and build off what they have. They know what they are talking about, they played Division I basketball last year, so we need to get the whole team to come out together and we will be good.”