The simple answer: Yes, if done the right way. And Dana Altman looks to be getting on the right path.
The one-and-done phenomenon started in 2006, when the NBA made a rule stating that in order for a player to be eligible for an NBA draft, they must be at least 19 years old and/or one year removed from high school. Since then, it has become common practice for elite high school prospects to play one year in college before declaring for the NBA Draft.
The Oregon Men’s Basketball team has had three such “one-and-done” players, all in the past two years (Troy Brown, Bol Bol and Louis King). There has been some debate as to whether these one-and-done players have been good for the Oregon program, and whether or not Altman should continue to recruit them.
An argument can be made that since Oregon began recruiting these one-and-done prospects, the team’s production on the court has not lived up to the standards we expect under Altman. If it wasn’t for a miraculous eight-game winning streak to end last season, the Ducks would have missed the NCAA Tournament two years in a row.
However, that lack of on-court success may not be the fault of these one-and-dones. Looking at the past two seasons, Brown, Bol (above) and King have either led or been near the top of all statistical categories for the Ducks. While stats are not everything, as fans we saw how the team struggled offensively after Bol’s injury this past season.
Talent vs Experience
But isn’t experience just as important when it comes to building a championship team? Although these elite freshmen may have the talent, some would argue that they don’t have the commitment to the program that an upperclassmen has. Moreover, these one-and-dones may be looking ahead the NBA draft and holding back on the court to preserve themselves.
However, whether a player is a freshman or a senior, most, if not all, Division I basketball players have the goal of one day making it to the NBA. Every time they step onto the court, they are making their case to every GM, coach and scout who may be watching. While some elite prospects know that they are going to be a one-and-done player, it still greatly benefits them to put forth their best effort during their one season in college.
Over the past five NBA Drafts, 61% of lottery picks have been one-and-done players. Similarly, each of the last five National Championship teams has had at least two players who went on to be drafted by an NBA team. Even more players from those teams are now currently on NBA rosters.
Most college teams that win a championship have NBA talent. While simply having having the most talent doesn’t guarantee a championship, it puts teams in a position to win throughout the season. Then, come tournament time, a combination of experience, good coaching and top talent can win any game.
One thing that an experienced player provides is leadership. They can bring a team together and rally them to be the best team they can be. However, good leadership doesn’t have to come from a player who has the most college experience.
This past season, there were multiple reports stating that the main catalyst for the Ducks’ turnaround late in the season was Francis Okoro (above), a true freshman. He was tired of losing, so he challenged and pushed his teammates, leading them through their end-of-season winning streak. Okoro proves that leadership can come from any player on a team.
The Fan Experience
The rise of one-and-done players and constant roster turnover may impact fans’ interest, though. For example, this upcoming season, the Oregon Women’s Basketball program has sold over 6,000 season tickets. That is almost an 800% increase from the 800 tickets sold during Kelly Graves’ first season in 2014-2015.
There are many reasons for this. One: the team is just flat out good. They win games, and they win them decisively. Two: Their style of play is fun to watch. They play fast, they shoot a lot of threes and score a lot of points. And three: they have familiar faces. This next season they return all but one starter from a Final Four team, including the reigning National Player of the Year, Sabrina Ionescu.
Fans can relate to that team and those players. Fans have seen them progress and get better while putting everything they have on the court for the Ducks. It is harder to say that for the Men’s program. In 10 seasons under Altman, the men have had just two players play all four seasons at Oregon (Johnathan Loyd and Payton Pritchard).
With so many moving parts, the Men’s program has been forced to reload season after season. This leaves fans wondering every year who they are going to be rooting for on the court. The consistent roster turnover can result in a team that struggles early in the season, which causes fans to lose interest.
The Biggest Issue
Transfers. While the case can be made that one-and-dones are hurting the Men’s Basketball program, transfers are the real culprit. Since Altman has been at Oregon, there have been 21(!) transfers out of the program. That is, on average, more than two per season, with 12 of those transfers coming after one season or less.
Because of this, Altman is forced to completely rebuild his roster every offseason. Most years, Oregon has to add five or six players instead of just three or four. While Altman has had to replace three one-and-done players, it is well known beforehand that those players will be there for only one season. Transfers, however, leave holes in the roster the program is not prepared for.
Every coach’s goal is to assemble the best, and best fitting, talent for their team. Generally, the players who are able to make the most immediate impact are the 5-star, potentially one-and-done prospects. Altman’s next step is to find players who are willing to stay multiple years and play alongside these elite players.
The good news is that the coaching staff is well on their way to achieving this balance between multi-year players and elite one-and-dones. While players like N’Faly Dante, CJ Walker and Addison Patterson could potentially only be with the Ducks for one season, the Ducks have found depth elsewhere.
With two sit-out transfers in Eric Williams Jr. and Eugene Omoruyi, junior college player Chris Duarte and fellow incoming freshmen Chandler Lawson and Lök Wur, the Ducks have a solid foundation on which to build their roster for next season.
Altman has said that he wants to bring players into his program who want to be here. The more success the Ducks continue to have, the better the prospects they will attract. If you were Altman, would you be able to turn away elite talent if they wanted to play here just because they might be one-and-done? I, for one, don’t think I could.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, OregonTop Photo From Twitter
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.
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