Basketball season is officially upon us. The Ducks start their campaign with an exhibition game against their Eugene neighbors at Northwest Christian University, having cruised to a 101-69 victory last season.
Besides the anticipation of seeing the high flying Ducks back at Mathew Knight Arena, loyal fans will be treated to seeing a local legend in Northwest Christian head coach and former Oregon player, Luke Jackson.
The 6’7 small forward from Creswell, Ore., attended Oregon from 2000-2004. Alongside fellow future NBA players Luke Ridnour and Fred Jones, Jackson led the Ducks to an Elite Eight appearance in 2002.
As the only player in school history to be in the top ten in nine different statistical categories, Jackson is second in points scored as a Duck.
Jackson was awarded Pac-10 freshman honors for the 2000-01 season, and all Pac-10 honors in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.
His senior campaign was by far his best, as he averaged 21.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game on his way to being a finalist for the Wooden and Naismith Player of the Year awards.
After being selected with the 10th pick in the 2004 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jackson struggled to earn playing time in the NBA. In addition to his time in Cleveland, he had short stints with the Clippers, Raptors and Heat.
In 2013, Jackson took his first coaching job back home at Northwest Christian. During his first season, Jackson led the Beacons to their first ever appearance in the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament.
Come tonight, Jackson will be showered with much-deserved applause and admiration. Yet Ducks coach Dana Altman has been putting in serious work this offseason, establishing himself as a top recruiter worthy of his own applause.
After securing Dylan Ennis, a senior transfer from Villanova, and Chris Boucher, the reigning junior college player of the year from Northwest College in Wyoming, Altman has set his sights on five-star recruit T.J Leaf, a 6’9 power forward from El Cajon, Calif.
Ranked the 13th best player in the 2016 class, Leaf was once committed to the University of Arizona. After deferring his intent this summer, Leaf narrowed his options to UCLA, San Diego State, and the Ducks.
Leaf visited Eugene in October, and according to Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog, had this to say about the visit: “All I’m going to say is, it couldn’t have gone better for me.” This optimistic report should excite Duck fans as Leaf averaged 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks a game as a junior. Quite the stat man.
Altman has already secured commitments from four-star point guard Payton Pritchard, four-star small forward Keith Small and four-star power forward M.J. Cage. That list alone will make for a very successful recruiting class, but with the possible addition of Leaf, the Ducks would have arguably their best recruiting class in school history.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck