Oregon Basketball to Reach New Heights

Darren Perkins Editorials 21 Comments

Without a doubt, losing to the USC Trojans in the Sweet Sixteen was painful, but Oregon Basketball has plenty to still look forward to.

But before we jump into that, we can chalk up the Ducks 2020-21 season as a success. If before the season someone had looked into their crystal ball and said that the Ducks would win the Pac-12 regular-season championship and advance to the Sweet-Sixteen, I think most Ducks fans would have screamed, “I’ll take it!

The Ducks dealt with Covid-19, key injuries (N’Faley Dante, Chris Duarte), and played most games without starting any true “bigs.” The starting line-up mainly consisted of four six-foot-six players, and another at six-foot-five which created some inherent disadvantages down low. The talent and firepower on the outside did make up for this, but not enough to where they could make a deep run in the tournament.

The height and length of USC proved to be too much for the Ducks to overcome. Teams could overplay the Ducks on the perimeter without worry that they’d get schooled in the paint. The Ducks have been the Pac-12’s best program over the past decade under coach Dana Altman, but some might wonder if the loss to the Trojans could represent a changing of the guard in the conference.

Luckily for the Ducks, size is on the way.

Gary Breedlove

Will Richardson will lead the Ducks next year.

Getting Big

Next season, the Ducks will feature the energetic Franck Kepnang and the return of the injured N’Faly Dante, while bringing in freshman and five-star recruit Nathan Bittle. Also, the Ducks welcome Isaac Johnson back from his two-year Mormon Mission. All four of these players stand at six feet, eleven inches tall. On top of this, six-foot-eight forward Lok Wur figures to take on a bigger role.

Duck fans have to be salivating at the thought of getting a fully unleashed Kepnang. The early enrollee, who should currently be a high school senior, was brought along slowly during the season by coach Altman to help him adjust to the college game. By next year, with a full offseason of training and workouts, Kepnang should be a force. In limited action, he brought fire and energy that make many believe he could be a dominant player when his time comes next season.

Gary Breedlove

The Ducks could really use the size down-low on defense next season.

Meanwhile, Bittle, who draws comparisons to former Duck star Chris Boucher, could make an immediate impact given his rare combination of size and skill. And if Dante can stay healthy, he has proven to bring an inside presence that the Ducks severely lacked without him this past season.

 The Ducks will also return starting point guard Will Richardson, who at six-foot-five brings good size to the position at the college level. And currently, with the recent decision of forward Chandler Lawson to enter the transfer portal, the Ducks have four open roster spots in which they could bring in even more size, as solid recruiting transfers have been good friends to the Ducks during the Altman era.

The 2021-22 season will be a transitional year for the Ducks filled with uncertainty. But, one thing for sure is that big things await.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, Washington
Top photo credit: Gary Breedlove

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Annie

OT – It’s a PAC-12-only Final game for the women’s NCAA Championship!

Charles Fischer

Pretty incredible, and confirms the difficulty the Oregon women had in this conference. Both genders turned heads for basketball toward the west this year!

Charles Fischer

Has anyone else thought about the “weird” factor of Chandler Lawson leaving, but his brother is in the incoming recruiting class that is already signed to Oregon? Awkward!

Makes me wonder….

Santa Rosa Duck

I will bet we lose the brother as well.

ICamel

Tony Stubblefield hired as DePaul head basketball coach
https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-depaul-tony-stubblefield-20210401-agtecoreqzempg6embz2sl62ce-story.html

Hopefully Dana has a “big man” coach for a replacement to Stubblefield.

David Marsh

Off-Topic…

The Washington Football program is bleeding! They are set to lose two more receiving targets making that 5!

Meanwhile… Oregon’s new receiver recruits are making a splash in Spring camp after day 1 according to the practice report.

UtahDuck

You hate to see it…

Charles Fischer

Made me laugh!

Charles Fischer

Wow. I love from that first link….“It’s also worth noting that UW’s 27.8 pass attempts per game last season ranked 10th in the Pac-12 and 99th nationally — with the Huskies’ leading pass-catcher being a tight end (Cade Otton), not a wide receiver. So this exodus may also have something to do with the offense itself.”

Hee-hee-hee!

David Marsh

Because of that great offensive coordinator, they have up there… you know the one who was FIRED by Penn State and was replaced by…. Moorhead, who then turned the offense around and got a head coaching gig.

Haywarduck

Looking like they hired Jim Lakebright. The assistant to the last great coach isn’t always the best choice, as we know. Last time they did this it led to 12 straight for the Ducks!

Carl N

Having two 4 star and two 5 star true big men on the roster is scary to say the least, in a very good way that is. I was a bit surprised to see Lawson transfer as I had him penciled in as a potential starter and impact player next season. That disappointment is overcome by the knowledge that there appears to be a record number of player in the transfer portal.

And few coaches have been as successful as Dana in bringing in top talent through the portal. I chuckled when I read Canzano’s article earlier this week Oregon Ducks are a program in need of a BIG transformation as “in need of” seemed somewhat rhetorical as that “need” has already been fulfilled (and John certainly knew this when writing the article.) We know the team will be bigger.

We know Dana will refill the empty shelves with talent and maturity. We know that his team will grow and mature to a crescendo by season finale. The future is bright for Ducks hoops (and that extends to the lady Ducks as well.)

CJ

Next year will be a true litmus test on whether Altman can coach the big man’s game.

So far I haven’t seen him coach up the big guys to their full potential, or maybe I should say utilize their skills to the full potential. Hoping he might bring in some help or take some advice from a skilled big man who has turned into a coach.

If he can get all these big men to gel the way USC did this year then we could be looking real good next year. I will have to see it to believe it though because his track record has favored the middle sized guys like what we had this year.

Here’s hoping he works it out and we see a deep run next year. The potential to dominate the boards, defensive paint and the offensive block is huge (pun intended).

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks Darren, looking forward to next year. The Lady Ducks should gel and show improvement as well.

Bring on Gonzaga!

Beege

As always, thanks for a great article Darren. Don’t forget athletic 6’11” Isaac Johnson, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Haywarduck

The college and pro game is all about the 3 point shot. We will need improvement in shooting the 3 from those returning, and some sharpshooting transfer(s) to compete next season.

I do agree our bigs will be a shift in our roster that will fun to watch.

David Marsh

All about the three-point shot yes…

but offensive rebounds can still take away a good portion of the volatility of that approach to the game. The other side is that the bigs can really force the opposing defense to collapse and give more room for the three-point shooters to actually shoot the ball. At the end of the day the big men getting offensive rebounds and scoring on the putback would be difficult to stop. Then there is always a threat of just scoring through sheer power under the basket.

As with every sport… force your opponent to stop one thing to burn them with another. In this case, force them to stop the posts from scoring and then burn them with the three-ball until they are forced to defend against the three and then just go right back to the post.