Ducks hope to add to talented class
By Steve Mims
EUGENE — When Dana Altman began recruiting at the end of Oregon’s basketball season, he had one scholarship to offer.
The coach knew additional spots could open up and two more became available Tuesday; Troy Brown declared for the NBA draft following his freshman season and Keith Smith elected to transfer for his final two years of eligibility.
That leaves the Ducks with 10 scholarships for next year, although the time when players transfer has just begun. Altman planned to meet with each remaining player back on campus this week for the start of spring term.
“We hope everyone stays,” Altman said.
Oregon will host recruits during the next two weeks for the spring signing period that begins Wednesday and runs through May 16.
The Ducks are in the mix for four-star point guard Brandon Williams of Encino, California, who originally committed to Arizona before opening up his options after the Wildcats fell under NCAA scrutiny. Koby McEwen, a Utah State point guard who intends to transfer after averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, is also considering the Ducks.
Francis Okoro, a 6-foot-9 center in the 2019 class from Illinois who could reclassify to 2018, is also expected to visit Oregon, according to 247Sports.com.
“Guys we are talking with that could come in and have a little influence, I don’t think will be making a decision for a while,” Altman said. “I think in a lot of cases the schools they are looking at are in the same predicament we are in, looking to see who is coming and who is going. How big of a hole the team has to fill.”
Oregon’s roster for next season includes junior point guard Payton Pritchard and sophomore guard Victor Bailey. Freshman Will Richardson is a combo guard from Oak Hill Academy.
“He has a knack for scoring,” Altman said of Richardson. “His high school team scored a lot this year and he did both, scoring and also distributing the ball with good players around him.”
Kenny Wooten and Paul White both started at forward last season while Abu Kigab and M.J. Cage also return. The Ducks have signed five-star recruits Bol Bol, a 7-2 center, and Louis King, a 6-8 forward, as well as 6-10 four-star power forward Miles Norris.
“I think Kenny will make a big jump and Abu is going to make a big jump,” Altman said. “VJ and Payton too, so that’s the biggest thing. Guys coming back have to have a tremendous spring and set a great tone in the summer. Then the four young men we have signed, we need to get them healthy and get them here in late June when summer school starts and they have to join in with the guys coming back.”
Bol and King were both selected for the McDonald’s All-American Game last month, but neither played because of injuries. Bol has a strained Achilles while King is out with a knee injury.
Both recruits were invited to play in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland on April 13, but Altman said King will not play and Bol is likely to at least be limited.
“Those two guys will be a big part of what we want to do with their size and athleticism,” Altman said. “They are very talented and both seem to be real excited about being here and working with us. Hopefully, we get a group that really wants to work and those four freshmen will be a key for us, no doubt.”
Richardson transferred from Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Georgia, to play his senior season at national power Oak Hill Academy. Norris left Helix High School in La Mesa, California, to play at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire this season.
“I like how both of those guys challenged themselves,” Altman said. “Homesickness shouldn’t be a problem for them since they have been away for a year. You always worry about that with freshmen coming in, but since both of them have been away for a year, it shouldn’t bother them much at all.”