Relentless persistence and determination are qualities that set great athletes apart from the simply good. These qualities are also critically important to an athlete that isn’t offered a scholarship. No scholarship means a player is not guaranteed a spot on the team, but rather just a chance to try out for a “walk-on” position, and on their own dime at that.
Not surprisingly, walk-ons can be some of the most underrated athletes within the NCAA. Theo Friedman is a freshman walk-on for the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team. His diligence and hard-working attitude have provided him a walk-on spot with the team. Only in his freshmen year, Friedman has already been part of an exciting roller coaster season. With the recent big win over No. 4-ranked Arizona, the Ducks are looking to receive a bid to the Big Dance.
Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing in at 172 pounds, Friedman is a quick guard that knows how to move with or without the ball. This allows him more opportunities to score as well as get good looks for his teammates. He has the ability to drive aggressively in the lane and finish. However, Friedman also has great judgment that helps him know when to finish underneath or dish it out to an open teammate. This is a huge advantage he has over defenses. This great judgement combined with an excellent knowledge of the game itself, leaves him primed to make big plays happen.
Having just an inside game is not enough in basketball. Also being able to play beyond the arc helps make one a true threat. Friedman’s textbook jump-shot and quick release allow him to be dominant not just beyond the arc, but deep in the woods. He can quickly release his jumper, even with a defender playing tight, which can put his man on skates.
This is especially true when defenders face a player like Friedman, who can bury the jumper, drive the lane and finish inside or dish it out. A multi-dimensional guard like Friedman is difficult for the opposing team to read, and even harder to handle. Moreover, with his range extending well beyond the arc, it creates a difficult defensive stance for the opponent. For opposing coaches it becomes “How do we defend not only against his inside and outside game, but also dealing with that ability to score from a good distance past the 3-point line.”
On the defensive side, Friedman attacks the boards and loves the transition to offense. Exhibiting terrific vision, he moves the ball up the court and makes knowing his teammates’ favorite shooting spots a priority.
Being a great guard is not just about making baskets, it’s also important to produce as many scoring opportunities as possible for teammates. Although Friedman is capable of pulling up for the three ball or finishing under the basket, and even taking a quick power-dribble to make space for a shot, he is well equipped to see the court and his teammates which helps him identify the most effective scoring opportunities.
Prior to Oregon, Friedman attended Grant High School in Portland. As a junior he averaged 14 points per game. His senior year he racked up numbers across the board averaging 60% from the field, 51% from beyond the arc and a big 89% from the free throw line. Also during his senior year Friedman upped his average points per game to 19.4 while adding 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. These numbers earned him a spot on the All-City First Team of the Portland Interscholastic League.
The skills Friedman has of not only scoring, but his tenacious defense on the boards and in the passing lane, makes for a well rounded player and helps create big opportunities for other players.
A guard this well equipped, on both offense and defense, allows for even greater overall team production. Oregon is excited to see Friedman develop into his skill-set within their quick transition offense.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck