Oregon Men’s Basketball Hitting the Reset Button… Again

Alex Nordstrand Editorials

The Oregon Men’s Basketball program ended their season just over a week ago, and as it always seems during the offseason, the Ducks are needing to find a few spring commitments to fill out next season’s roster. After yet another Sweet 16 run, Dana Altman is looking at a number of players leaving the program to pursue their goals at the next level, or transferring to find a better opportunity at another school. As it stands today, the Ducks are looking to add anywhere from 3-5 players between now and the beginning of next season.

Seniors Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi have already penned their goodbyes to Oregon, while fellow seniors Amauri Hardy and LJ Figueroa are expected to do the same. Combine that with the transfers of Chandler Lawson and Jalen Terry, Altman has his work cut out for him once again. Initially, the Ducks expected to have at least three players already committed and signed for the next season, Johnathan Lawson, Isaac Johnson and Nate Bittle.

However, currently, only one is a guarantee. Lawson, brother of Chandler and a member of this 2021 class, has asked and been granted a release from his National Letter of Intent to Oregon after his brother transferred from the school. Johnson, initially a member of the 2019 class, has been on a Mormon mission, and is expected to join the Ducks this summer, but has not been confirmed.

Chris Duarte closed his senior season with the Ducks leaving a void for new talent.

So for now, the Ducks are diving deep into the transfer portal, which has over 1,200 players currently in it. By far the most ever at this time of year. In the past, Altman has had no problem reeling in impact transfers, and with so much talent potentially available right now, I would expect nothing less this time around.

It should be noted that assistant coach and ace recruiter, Tony Stubblefield, did agree to become the next head coach at DePaul. His recruiting prowess and coaching knowledge will be missed. He was in on a lot of top recruits for the Ducks, and it is said that he is a big reason for the consistently good defense the Ducks have played. No doubt Altman will find a good replacement, but he will want to do it fast to lockdown some of these high profile transfers.

With so much in flux, there has been one constant for next season, and that is the arrival of Bittle. Standing at six-foot-eleven, with a seven-foot-six wingspan, Bittle is a long, rangy player that is expected to make an impact right away for the Ducks. Even at his size, he is able to step out and shoot threes, which gives him a leg up in Altman’s system. Despite being on the skinnier side, he uses his natural length to go along with his effort and timing to be a good rebounder and shot blocker.

Though he isn’t the most athletic player in the world, he makes up for it by being a quick jumper, and his basketball IQ is very high. He knows how and when to either get in position for a put-back dunk, or time his jump for a blocked shot. Where he struggles is his overall athleticism and lateral quickness. He will struggle if he is asked to guard players on the perimeter, and it will be interesting to see how he fits into Altman’s defense. Or how Altman adjusts his defense to help hide some of those deficiencies.

Nate Bittle was recruited heavily by the Bruins before deciding to come to Eugene.

Offensively he is still growing into his game. As I mentioned before, he is able to step outside and make the occasional three, and is a good finisher around the rim who looks to dunk the ball whenever he can. He is also a very capable passer, whether that is going post-to-post or kicking it out to a teammate for a three. Where I think he will do most of his damage early on is as a pick-and-pop player, and someone who will crash the boards hard for offensive rebounds and put-backs.

Overall, I do expect Bittle to come in right away and be a player that demands minutes. There may be an early adjustment period for him, but as he gets used to the speed and physicality of the game, he will start to come into his own. He is too talented, and plays too hard to be someone who doesn’t see minutes.

Though I do think they are different players, and the early production might not be the same, I would expect him to play a role similar to how Chris Boucher was used at Oregon. Bittle will be a shot blocker, rim runner, and someone who can stretch the defense from outside. He won’t be asked to post up much early on, but will still stuff the stat sheet with hustle plays. I am excited to see how he develops and continues to grow his game.

Next years Ducks are going to look a little different. With at least three players who would create a lineup rotation substantially larger than not only this past season’s Ducks, but the most height Altman has ever had while at Oregon, we should see an entirely different variety of production next season. There is no doubt this roster will still change and look much different before the season starts. But it is shaping up to be a team with a skill set we haven’t seen much at Oregon, and I am excited and interested how Altman will take advantage of this new size advantage.

Go Ducks!

Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo By Gary Breedlove

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