If you are a basketball junkie like me, you are counting down the weeks, days, minutes, and seconds until the start of the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball 2018-2019 season. The Ducks tip off on November 9 in the 2k Classic Tournament in New York. As basketball fans, we love hype, we love potential and we love to wonder what would happen if hype and potential surpass our wildest expectations. This year’s Ducks squad enters this upcoming season with more hype and more potential than ever before as they look to not just capture their first PAC-12 championship in three seasons but bring home an NCAA tournament championship for the first time in eighty years.
This year is unlike any other in school history, as nine year head coach Dana Altman leads a loaded recruiting class that ranked second in the nation. The group is headlined by the fourth ranked player in the country, center, Bol Bol. Bol, the son of NBA veteran and one of the tallest professional players of all time, Manute Bol, stands a towering 7’2 and has over a nine foot wingspan. Bol Bol is coming into his potential one and done year with the Ducks as one of the elite defenders and rebounders in the country. Bol also has a nice mid-range game with the ability to step out and connect on three pointers as well. Early Ducks gossip has him being compared to former standout Chris Boucher but with a way higher ceiling and a more polished overall skill set.
Fellow McDonald’s All-American and five star recruit, Louis King, will join Bol. Scouts feel that King has the ability to become a dominating stretch-four or big wing, with excellent ball handling skills and a solid stroke that could create nightmare matchups for opponents. King is listed at 6.9” and has a 7-foot wingspan and teaming up with Bol and his length could create one of the most dominating frontcourts in the country on both ends of the floor.
The Ducks also landed point guard Will Richardson to help command the backcourt. The 6’5”, four-star recruit with excellent vision and pacing could be the perfect fit alongside Bol and King. Richardson enters his freshmen year with a solid outside shooting stroke from deep and great slashing to the hoop ability that can free up open shots for teammates on the outside.
Miles Norris will also join this group of top ranked freshmen to help in the frontcourt alongside King and Bol. Norris, four-star recruit, stands 6’8” and holds plenty of potential. Norris is not a huge physical force inside but provides a nice shooting touch with a high release point to enable him to shoot over smaller opponents. Scouts report that he is particularly dangerous when shooting from the elbow.
Rounding out this star-studded class of incoming freshmen is 6’8’ Francis Okoro. Okoro is physical and athletic, with over a 7-foot wingspan, and a chiseled and powerful frame; he will look to add depth and strength to both ends of the floor. Pairing him with Bol, King and Norris could create one of the most unstoppable frontcourts in the country. Okoro was a bit of a surprise recruit for the Ducks, as he reclassified his college status and was able to graduate high school a year early so he could be able to enter college.
Okoro reclassifying is the current trend to help fast track top recruits to enter the NBA quicker and younger. The process of reclassifying ones status was recently described by Jeff Borzello of ESPN, Borzello finds that the current top prospects want to find a way to the NBA by as young as possible because of the potential to make as much money as possible. This practice allows a player to complete high school at a younger age and be able to join the league as young as possible. Borzello describes the way reclassification works by allowing players to “repeat a grade and be a year older during the latter portion of their high school career and then reclassify back into their original class when they are ready to graduate.” This is what allowed Okoro to join to Ducks this year instead of next year. Coach Altman has had success with this kind of play before when he landed Dillion Brooks in 2014 and was one of the most impactful reason why the Ducks made the Final Four in 2017. Altman does not shy away from his comments about this when he said, “With the one-and-done, your team’s always sort of in transition, always trying to figure out who’s going to be there, who’s going to make the jump. You’re always trying to develop players, help them meet their goals. You always know there are going to be holes to fill on your team.” Making Altman not afraid to recruit potential one-year only players and helping them reach their goals and full potential. This year’s class is his best example of that.
This year’s group of star studied freshmen could be one of the last several to have to play under the NBA’s current age limit rule that breads reclassifying practices. Earlier this month commissioner Adam Silver stated, “We’re ready to make that change” and wants to return to the days when top prospects could jump straight to the pros after high school. The rule is rumored to go into practice in 2021. The current rule forces top prospects to enter college for one year otherwise Oregon would never see the likes of Bol and King in a Ducks uniform as they would most likely jump to the pros instead.
The basketball junkie inside me doesn’t care about one and done players or the act of reclassifying players so they can be younger when they start their college and future NBA careers. I can’t get enough of the potential that this year’s Duck squad represents. On paper, they have the ability to win the PAC-12 tournament and move beyond their 2017 Final Four appearance and into the national title game. Altman will have a chance to develop and grow one of the most dominating frontcourts in school history and with help from senior Ehab Amin and junior Payton Pritchard to lead this group of young talented freshmen beyond potential and into achieved success. The way things look right now is anything less than a PAC-12 championship and a deep run in the NCAA tournament would be a bust for this potentially explosive, dominating group of young men.