Oregon Basketball With and Without Bol Bol

Bob Rickert Editorials

Oregon’s offense never felt more vulnerable than the moment we learned Bol Bol hurt his foot against San Diego. And it never looked more vulnerable than in the first half against Boise State. Bol’s foot is in a walking boot and will be evaluated later this week. Say a prayer. Cross your fingers. Burn some incense. Do whatever you need to do. The Ducks need Bol in the lineup when Pac-12 play begins. Now back to the team.

Simply put, the Ducks have little offensive leadership. They’re slow to follow Payton Pritchard’s lead, and I keep waiting for Paul White’s game to emerge. Turns out White just isn’t a guy wanting to try to take over a game. Which is too bad, because he has the size to score on the block over smaller guys. He just doesn’t seem willing to do it. Altman even tried to force the issue by playing White at center for a short stretch on Saturday, but White didn’t take advantage of it.

Who are Oregon’s Other Scoring Options?

Eugene Johnson

Until Bol returns, Pritchard, and Bailey have to step up.

Without Bol, the Ducks don’t know who should be the the first option. Pritchard emerged in that role against Boise with Will Richardson at the point, and he’s going to be the second scoring option when Bol returns. But until then?

The Ducks have plenty of third scorers in White, VJ Bailey, Louis King or Kenny Wooten. But aside from Bol, Pritchard and Bailey are the only two effective three-point shooters that Oregon has. Ehab Amin spotted up in the corner and shot an air ball that that almost hit Hiron’s Drug Store over on Franklin Boulevard. Abu Kigab shot an air ball of his own that dented Tinker Hatfield’s artwork when it hit the floor.

Bailey showed again that he shoots well after he’s gotten a bucket or two. His first clean look from the wing didn’t even hit the inside of the rim. Then, after getting a loose ball and a dunk, he got going, hitting a couple of jumpers and a fantastic reverse layup that showed off his athleticism.

Eugene Johnson

Bailey’s first step to the rim is explosive. Oregon needs him to use it more often.

One way to combat the early game cold shooting is for the Ducks to take everything to the basket and get to the free-throw line. The Chicago Bulls started games that way in the Michael Jordan era: every play went through the post or was a drive to the basket for the first few minutes. Only after everyone had a few touches and had broken a sweat would they start shooting jump shots. Even Jordan himself advocated it.

I once met Tex Winter at a Kansas Sports Hall of Fame event. He said they knew Michael would get his points, but if they could get early baskets from Luc Longley it was like stealing points. The Ducks and Wooten can use the same idea. Option one for the Ducks would be passing it to Wooten or Bol on the block. Option two would be freeing Pritchard or Richardson for a drive to the basket. Look for some of that at the start of the next couple games.

Water Cooler Notes

Kigab was hurt in the last game as well. Oregon now has Bol out, Kigab possibly out, and King with limited minutes. The latest injury comes on the night freshman Miles Norris played his first minutes. Bye-bye redshirt! He’s now healthy enough to play, and decided a week ago that he didn’t want to redshirt. Now Oregon needs him. He can be a pretty effective player if he can get enough minutes. Francis Okoro has earned some minutes while Bol is out. Norris might now get 8-10 minutes a game until King’s minutes are stretched and someone returns.

Okoro’s offensive game on the block is improving. He’s still learning to make one move or one fake, trust his width and strength, and go up strong. His nice soft touch is a stark contrast to his physically ability bully defenders near the basket. I can’t wait to see his game mature.

Eugene Johnson

Kenny Wooten can be a bigger offensive factor if they throw him the lob more often.

Oregon’s guards rebound well. Fifteen of Oregon’s 28 rebounds against Boise State came from the guards. They all do a nice job of crashing back on the weak-side to get the rebound.

On defense, Oregon can do a better job of quickly identifying the hot shooter and making him score in new ways. Boise State’s Alex Hobbs knocked down four straight three-pointers before the Ducks made him uncomfortable with pressure before he got the ball. That’s a lack of defensive awareness as a group. I’m sure the coaches will start harping on that soon.

What a difference some time will make, though. Shots have started to fall for Bailey. Pritchard got better looks, because Richardson is playing the point. King’s minutes will be increasing soon and Bol will be back. All of that, and a few more games together, and Oregon’s offense may be just fine by January.

Bob Rickert
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Top Photo Credit: Eugene Johnson

Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester Tennessee.


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