After ‘a crazy two weeks,’ Dana Altman will now take on his biggest rebuilding project yet
With trips to the Elite Eight and Final Four notched in successive years, Oregon is now consistently competing with blue blood programs for the first time in school history.
As Oregon head coach Dana Altman is finding out, those games in late March and early April come at a price. Over the last two weeks, Oregon has watched six members of its seven-man rotation walk out the door, and Altman, a master of building programs from the ground up, will now undertake one of the trickiest rebuilding projects of his career.
”It’s been a crazy two weeks,” Altman told reporters on Monday as he addressed the media for the first time since Oregon’s Final Four loss in Glendale.
Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell all declared for the NBA Draft in the weeks following the Final Four, and junior guard Casey Benson announced last week that he will graduate in the spring and then end his career elsewhere as a graduate transfer.
While many Oregon fans were surprised to see all four players go, Altman wasn’t so shocked.
“Dillon Brooks and Tyler [Dorsey], I knew before the season,” Altman said. “Jordan, until the run at the end, I wasn’t sure what he was gonna do. But you play that well for that many games, I can’t blame him.
“Casey, I knew he was down when he made a decision to go with Payton (Pritchard) to start. So I wasn’t surprised by him.”
With those four, as well as seniors Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis, all on their way out, the Ducks will see players who were responsible for scoring 87 percent of their points last season depart. To make matters trickier, junior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams also asked for and was granted a release from his scholarship last week and is now free to explore transfer options.
Altman and company had already compiled a strong recruiting class before Pac-12 play began last January, and the cupboard was never going to be completely empty for the Ducks regardless of how many players left. Oregon will welcome 5-star guard Troy Brown Jr., the No. 18 player in the nation according to ESPN, and depend on him to take over a large chunk of the scoring load.
Along with Brown, the Ducks received early verbal commitments from two 4-star wings in Victor Bailey and Abu Kigab.
“It was hard recruiting people because you look at our roster,” Altman said. “Dylan Ennis and Chris [Bouche] were the only two we knew we were gonna lose. So it’s a balancing act there. I know a lot of schools go through it every year. … The Kentucky’s have to see a whole new team every year. This is the first year we’ve had to go through it, so it’s a little different.”
As Altman and Oregon now scramble to fill their suddenly-open scholarship spots, the Ducks have plenty of options to choose from. Oregon is one of three schools still being considered by 5-star big-man Brandon McCoy. A letter of intent from the 6-foot-10 recruit would likely catapult the Ducks into the Top 5 of the national recruiting rankings.
Altman has a knack for adding contributors late in the recruiting process, but the first domino for the Ducks fell just hours after Altman’s press conference ended on Monday.
Kenny Wooten Jr., a 4-star forward from Las Vegas, confirmed to the Emerald that he has verbally committed to Oregon. With four signees already in the fold and more potentially on the way, Altman’s “crazy two weeks” could end with the Ducks reloading their roster and remaining in national title contention without breaking stride.
“We are getting into homes a lot easier,” Altman said. “You go to a Final Four, so everybody at least picks up the phone. But it’s still about finding the right group of guys who can play together and work together. We’re gonna be younger next year, which is kind of exciting from a coaching standpoint.”
Follow Jarrid Denney on Twitter @jarrid_denney
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