After a spectacular and exciting Cinderella run into the NCAA tournament, a top-notch incoming recruiting class, and the potential return of all but two players, expectations were high for the Oregon Men’s Basketball 2019-20 season at the end of last year. However, the unexpected departures of a number of players left Dana Altman and his staff with the challenge to, yet again, completely rebuild this team from the ground up.
The graduations of Paul White and Ehab Amin, the NBA departures of Bol Bol, Louis King and Kenny Wooten, and the transfers of Abu Kigab (mid season), Victor Bailey Jr. and Miles Norris at the beginning of June left the Ducks with three scholarship players eligible for the 2019-2020 season (Payton Pritchard, Will Richardson, Francis Okoro). These three were in addition to three signed players as part of the 2019 class (CJ Walker, Chris Duarte, Chandler Lawson).
While most programs would be looking for potentially one or two more pieces to fill out their rosters, the Ducks not only needed bodies, they needed players who could contribute right away. It’s safe to say the staff had a lot of work to do. And go to work they did.
The first transfer Altman and his staff added was Eric Williams Jr., a 6’6 wing from Duquesne. Last season, Williams Jr. averaged 14.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 46% from the field and 37% from three-point range. This is a player perfect for Altman’s system.
Williams Jr. is an athletic, long wing who can shoot the three, defend well and loves to rebound. My comparison from recent Duck teams would be Dwayne Benjamin — but more skilled. He’s a guy that will do all the little things right to help a team win. Williams Jr. will have two years of eligibility after sitting out next season.
The second transfer the Ducks grabbed up was Eugene Omoruyi, a 6’7 forward from Rutgers. The latest Canadian to join the men’s basketball program, Omoruyi averaged 13.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from the field last season. Although he may be a little undersized for a forward, he makes up for that with strength and toughness, and is another guy who will do whatever it takes to help the team win.
While not overly skilled offensively, his three-point shot has improved in each of his three years, and he has the ability to handle the ball and create plays for teammates. He reminds me of Olu Ashaolu, who played some big time minutes for the Ducks. This will be another guy that Altman loves. Omoruyi will have one year of eligibility after sitting out this season.
Immediate Impact Players
The first domino to fall in the Ducks’ favor for the 2019-2020 season was grad transfer guard Anthony Mathis (below) from New Mexico. Mathis, a high school teammate of Payton Pritchard’s, was New Mexico’s leading scorer last season at 14.4 ppg, while making 106 threes at a 41% clip. For comparison, Pritchard made a team-high 65 threes last year while shooting 33%.
Mathis (above) may not be a starter or even consistently play big minutes, but he will be the best three-point shooter on the team, and will be greatly needed at times to space the floor. This is not to mention his great relationship with Pritchard and the chemistry those two will have on the court. He will be a solid role player and make some big-time shots this season.
The second grad transfer to commit to the Ducks was 6’7 Forward Shakur Juiston (below). Previously the national JUCO Player of the Year, Juiston was injured last season, and was granted a medical waiver for his fifth year. During his Junior season at UNLV, he averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game while shooting an outstanding 64% from the field.
Juiston (above) will play multiple spots for Altman and the Ducks and has the ability to defend every position on the court. He also fills another big need for the Ducks, with his best skill being rebounding. Offensively, he’s a slasher and finisher at the rim, in my eyes comparable to Elgin Cook. Juiston was an enormous late pick up, and once again, cemented the Ducks as Pac-12 contenders.
Another addition this summer was 6’9 freshman Lök Wur (pronounced Luke below). Originally slated to go the junior college route due to academic eligibility issues, Wur took the nation by storm after he was deemed eligible by the NCAA in June, receiving over 40 scholarship offers, some from major programs, including Oregon. On his official visit to Oregon on June 23rd, Wur committed, which gave the Ducks eight scholarship players available for 2019-2020.
Wur (above) is an intriguing prospect. At 6’9, he’s very athletic, can handle the ball and has a decent-looking shot. He has drawn some comparisons to Pascal Siakam from the Toronto Raptors, and if you were able to watch them in the NBA playoffs, you saw how versatile a player like that can be. While Wur is still very raw, and may not be able to contribute many minutes this year, his potential is through the roof, and if he sticks around a couple years (which unfortunately is no longer a guarantee in college basketball), he could be a big time impact player for the Ducks down the road.
The latest Ducks commitment, and maybe the biggest of all, was N’Faly Dante (below). Filling the missing piece of another big man, Dante, a 6’11 Center with a 7’5 wingspan, loves to block shots, run the floor and finish with force at the rim. Rated a consensus 5-star prospect, Dante has reclassified from the 2020 to the 2019 class and will be on campus and eligible to play this season and compete for a starting role.
Dante (above) was voted co-MVP of the 2019 EYBL Peach Jam, which his team won, averaging 18.6 points, 13.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Offensively, he is still a little raw, but he’s at his best as a rebounder and finisher at the rim. Defensively, his ability to block shots while still being athletic enough to contest out to the three-point line will help him fit Altman’s zone perfectly.
With these late additions, the Ducks’ roster has quickly become one of the most talented and versatile of the Altman era. While Juiston’s commitment secured the Ducks as Pac-12 contenders, Dante now makes them Pac-12 favorites and potential Final Four contenders.
The question now is: how quickly can this team come together?
With so many new faces, we should expect the Ducks to take some time to learn how to play with one another while figuring out each other’s roles. But if Duck fans know one thing, it’s that Altman will always have his teams playing their best basketball come March. If that is the case again this season, the sky is the limit.
Seemingly in shambles just two months ago, the Ducks have had a very successful spring and summer. Not only have they brought excitement and high expectations back for this season with the additions of Juiston, Mathis and Dante, but they have stability for following years, with Omoruyi, Williams Jr. and Wur waiting in the wings (pun slightly intended).
And they might not be done yet …
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo From Twitter
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.
Alex is a lifelong Duck fan living in Eugene who goes to every Football and Basketball game that he can, and appreciates his wife for putting up with him during those seasons. Sports have always been his biggest passion, having played and coached Basketball at the High School level. He hopes to bring a unique and deeper understanding of both the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams at Oregon, and looks forward to nerding out with everyone while writing and talking Ducks!
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