Eugene, OR – With a big challenge coming next week for Oregon men’s basketball team, the Ducks took care of Eastern Washington, providing some glimpses of optimism for this upcoming season. After the Eagles made a few early three-pointers to garner a 6-5 lead, the Ducks went on a 24-0 run that lasted over 11 minutes. With an 81-47 final being similar to the point differential between Eastern Washington and Syracuse in the season opener, it seems like the Ducks are in a good place, even if head coach Dana Altman did stress that practices have been a tad underwhelming in terms of energy. There is a glaring difference between this years team and last years, which should lead to success for Oregon if they are able to execute and hopefully gain help on the wing with the return of Louis King, who will hopefully be available in December as he is still recovering from an MCL tear.
With Eastern Washington missing a number of key guards and starting center Mason Peatling, Oregon’s star freshman Bol Bol took advantage of the situation. With Bol having a reputation for sometimes drifting through games in terms of energy, he was assertive from the start and finished with 23 points (9-16 FG, 1-3 3PT, 4-6 FT), 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in 29 minutes. His preparation for rebounds was a really nice sign, as he used his massive wingspan to box out, though what shined most were his ball skills at 7’2”. He can attack close outs at his size, which will be a major key for him seeing that he has a soft shooting stroke in his repertoire as well. Offensive highlights for Bol include a really nice turnaround jumper, knocking down a 3-pointer and a dunk he created off the bounce that led to a technical foul for hanging on the rim. It was nice to see Bol have that kind of fire, even receiving a technical on his last bucket, where it could have been written off as him regaining his balance.
Some areas to look out for as the season progresses for Bol are his low release point, which has led to him getting blocked 3 times in the Ducks first two games and change some other shots. He also at times will miss open teammates, so his vision will be something to monitor, though he does have some ability as a passer. This was not much of a test for Bol, no one starting for Eastern Washington was taller than 6’7”, though it was great that he played up to the occasion. He was clearly the catalyst for Oregon in this one and showed he could be an offensive weapon while providing the rim protection that has been his calling card.
Payton Pritchard still looks to be the Ducks leader, as he racked up eight assists to just one turnover. Still, the Ducks identity will be their bigs, as Bol and fellow freshman Francis Okoro saw the majority of center minutes. While Bol has the technical skill with the ball, Okoro brings strength and energy that should be a great complementary contrast off the bench. Kenny Wooten and Paul White, both 6’9”, round out the starting frontcourt and made the paint pretty much prohibited. Eastern Washington only had two 2-point field goals on the game, and while their lack of size was a large part of that, the Ducks will make it very difficult to score near the hoop. Wooten’s incredible athleticism and White’s ability to stretch the floor create a nice contrast, and it will be nice for them to possibly play more together with Wooten at “5” and White at “4” in certain line-ups. Frontcourt depth is something that Oregon was lacking last season and will be in abundance this year, and it has been absolutely evident in their first two games.
As far as their backcourt is concerned, they have some serious speed in terms of Ehab Amin and Victor Bailey at the two-guard spot. Ehab has great feet on defense and while he started slowly, he scored 10 of his 13 points in the 2nd half, showing a nose for the ball that made him one of the country’s leaders in steals when he was at Texas A&M Corpus-Christi. Bailey finished with a couple of three-pointers, including one leading to a four-point play on a good find by freshman Will Richardson. Dana Altman seemed to be very happy with Richardson’s contribution, as he knocked down a three-pointer and scored on a drive on a botched pick-and-roll coverage from Eastern Washington. Richardson also had a steal and a block, as he seems to be coming around nicely after having some foot issues that had kept him sidelined for Oregon’s pre-season games. The Ducks managed to hold Eastern Washington to 13-45 (28.8%) 3PT, but they did still allow a number of good looks that will be something they will have to clean up going into the Iowa game on November 15.
As the Ducks make their way to New York, they seem to have an identity as a big team with some tough quick guards. They have upperclassman leadership in Pritchard, White and Amin, while rare athleticism at their size in Wooten, Bol and Okoro. The team has more depth than last year’s group, have numerous long-range threats and if they focus on boxing out, should be able to really force their will inside. While they did win the rebounding battle by 50-34 over Eastern Washington, they did give up 11 offensive rebounds to the Eagles, which will be something they need to clean up going into the Iowa game. After Iowa, Oregon will either play Syracuse or Connecticut, which will be a nice early season challenge for the Ducks. While they certainly have some things to clear up and will rely on freshmen to play key roles, there has been a lot to like about Oregon’s prospects for the season, along with the potential to return to the NCAA Tournament once again.
This article was written by Michael Visenberg, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter. We are looking for those interested in our basketball scout apprenticeship program. For information contact us and forward your resume.