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Ex-Crater star Bittle commits to Oregon

The state of Oregon has been in need of some good news lately after being devastated by wildfires, and Central Point native Nate Bittle supplied some Tuesday when the five-star center announced he has committed to play basketball next season at Oregon.

Bittle had said that his original plan was to choose a college with his family’s input in early November, but the group has had increased time to go over their options recently and felt comfortable in choosing Oregon after a lengthy recruitment.

The 6-foot-11, 200-pound senior chose the Ducks over fellow finalists Arizona, Gonzaga and UCLA and received a wave of well-wishes following Tuesday’s announcement.

“A lot of family and friends have texted me saying congratulations and there’s no better feeling than that,” said Bittle, who only turned 17 three months ago.

“I’m going to bring a lot of energy and a lot of passion,” he added of what Duck fans can look forward to from him. “I’m hoping to go there and get some wins and make the Oregon fans proud.”

Ryan Bittle, Nate’s father, said an official signing ceremony at Crater High may be in the making for November should schedules allow.

Bittle is ranked No. 8 on the Class of 2021 ESPN 100 and has received All-American recognition the past two years on MaxPreps and USA Today listings to go with his selection this past season as Oregon’s Class 5A state player of the year.

He becomes the highest-rated in-state commitment for Oregon basketball in program history, well ahead of West Linn’s Payton Pritchard (No. 54 for 247Sports in 2016), and is the fifth five-star commit for the Ducks and head coach Dana Altman since 2017.

“Coach Altman has just built a great coaching staff and built a winning culture there and that’s something I want to be a part of,” said Bittle. “He’s just a great coach. He knows how to win and he knows how to play bigs like how I’m hopefully going to play. He’s just an all-around great guy and I’ve liked building a relationship with him and I want to continue building my relationship when I come there.”

As the first Class of 2021 commitment for Oregon, Bittle hoped his ramped-up timeline will help recruit other top talents to Eugene, singling out 6-3 point guard Hunter Sallis of Omaha, Nebraska. Sallis is ranked 19th on the ESPN list.

“I just felt like if I committed a little bit earlier,” said Bittle, “I’d be able to get some guys to come (to Oregon). Other guys would be able to look and see, oh, Nate’s going there and he’s a big and I want to play with a big like him or something like that. I think just committing early and getting other guys to look at going to Oregon is what I wanted to do.”

Bittle’s in-state recruiting get for Oregon technically comes with an asterisk, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After playing his first three high school seasons at Crater High, Bittle currently attends Prolific Prep, a college-preparatory basketball academy in Napa, California. He joined Prolific Prep last month and has enjoyed his short time there already under head coach Mark Phelps.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I think we have a really good team this year. Coach Phelps is just an awesome coach. He’s coached at the college level and he knows what it takes to get there. He’s just getting us prepared for that next level. My senior season this year is almost like a college freshman year. He knows what he’s doing.”

Bittle was the final player cut in choosing last summer’s USA Basketball U16 national team, and he is the ninth-rated 2021 prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings and No. 18 in the Rivals 150 for the Class of 2021.

He is the highest-rated boys basketball player to come out of Southern Oregon since South Medford High’s Kyle Singler chose Duke as the No. 4 recruit in the nation for the Class of 2007.

Bittle boasts a 7-5 wingspan and guard-like skills with his deft 3-point shooting stroke, passing and dribbling abilities. He’s also proven to be a rim protector with good timing and control while blocking shots.

This past season for Crater, he averaged 25.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals.

In his lone game at the Class 5A state tournament against South Albany, Bittle totaled 35 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks in 23 minutes of a 76-43 win to push Crater into the semifinals before postseason play was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10 blocks against South Albany in the state quarterfinals equaled his own all-classification state tournament record set last year against Pendleton.

With the state of Oregon calling for an eight-week plan for basketball this school year from Jan. 11-March 7 — and no guarantee that would even happen come January — Bittle felt compelled to seek outside alternatives to play for his senior season.

Considered a full-contact sport, basketball remains on the prohibited list of sports in Oregon per mandates by Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority.

Although it is based in California and does play some games there, Prolific Prep is a national traveling team that reached as high as No. 2 in the nation in last year’s high school polls. The school, commonly referred to as Pro Prep, hired Phelps last month to take over as its basketball coach. Phelps is a former associate coach at the University of Arizona (2015-19) who also coached Bittle during his AAU play with West Coast Elite.

Prolific Prep is a preseason top-25 program this season thanks to a roster that also includes four-star guards Isa Silva (Stanford commit) and Arterio Morris (Memphis commit), four-star wing Kamari Lands and international standouts Stefan Todorovic (Serbia) and Yohan Traore (France).

Have a story idea? Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Crater's Nathan Bittle gets fouled on the way to the hoop during the 3rd quarter. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Nate Bittle drives to the hoop for 2 points in the 1st quarter.