Morris: A historic era ends at Oregon but a new one is just beginning
It was fun while it lasted, Oregon.
On Tuesday, Jordan Bell announced that he would be forgoing his senior season as a Duck and would instead hire an agent and declare for the NBA Draft. He will join Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks as Oregon stars leaving early.
Questions swirled for weeks around who, if any, of Oregon’s big three — Brooks, Bell and Dorsey — would return to school. The possibility that all three would leave was always on the table, and now it is time to face reality.
The departure of fan-favorites Dylan Ennis, Chris Boucher and Casey Benson also makes this pill tough to swallow. Including the big three, the Ducks lost six members of their seven-deep rotation. Almost three weeks removed from competing in the Final Four, it looks as though Oregon is headed toward a rebuild in 2017-18.
The six players Oregon lost combined to score 69.2 of its 79 points per game, and not one of them played under 20 minutes per game. The Ducks’ core returners next year will be Payton Pritchard, Roman Sorkin and Kavell Bigby-Williams, who combined to average around 13 points per game. Sorkin only played in 23 of Oregon’s 39 games.
Fortunately, Duck fans, next year won’t be all doom and gloom.
The exit of Brooks, Bell, Dorsey and Benson comes with some silver lining: Oregon now has four available scholarships for the 2017-18 season. Dana Altman intends to put them to good use.
Five-star center Brandon McCoy has reportedly narrowed his list of possible destinations down to two schools, and, if predictions are correct, the Ducks made the cut. They are also competing with the legendary Tom Izzo of Michigan State. If Oregon does land McCoy, it would arguably be Altman’s biggest recruit in his tenure in Eugene, especially considering how thin the Ducks will be up front next season.
Oregon is also pursuing former Arizona State commit and four-star forward Kenny Wooten, who recently told The Oregonian that the possibility of joining Oregon was a “huge factor” in his decommitment.
In addition to Wooten, the Ducks are also on the hunt for New Mexico graduate transfer Elijah Brown, who averaged 20 points per game over the past two season with the Lobos.
Brown, Wooten and McCoy are a select few of the handful of candidates that Altman and Co. will be scouting out over the coming weeks.
Oregon is certainly not going to shy away from the buzz it generated with its Final Four run, and if it’s smart, it will use the development of players like Dorsey, Brooks and Bell as a selling point: Come to Oregon and compete for a nationally known brand. Improve your game under Altman. Grow your own personal brand. If it worked for Brooks, Bell and Dorsey, it can definitely work for you.
The catch about recruiting is that nothing is for sure until a player signs their letter of intent. Until then, it’s somewhat of a crapshoot.
Oregon is guaranteed to look mighty different next season and that’s OK. Brooks, Bell and Dorsey helped put Oregon basketball on the map. They ushered in a new era that could continue to lead Oregon to historic places. They will continue to pursue their dreams. They’ve earned that much.
This may be the end of the greatest Ducks team ever assembled, but it’s just the beginning of something that could be much more special.
Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris