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De'vion Harmon (5) looks for options during an offensive play. The Oregon Ducks defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs 86-63 at Matthew Knight Arena on November 12, 2021. (Will Geschke/Emerald)

Head coach Dana Altman opens his 11th season at the University of Oregon ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12.

The departure of sharpshooter Chris Duarte to the NBA left an offensive hole for the Ducks before Altman once again utilized the transfer portal and JUCO system to build one of the more experienced squads in college basketball. Here is an early look at the 2021 Oregon men's basketball team.

Guard

A preseason Bob Cousey award watch list candidate, Will Richardson took the reins of the Oregon offense last year and showed tremendous scoring ability, shooting over 40% from three in the last two seasons. He can also get into the lane, where he uses his size to facilitate the team’s attack and create looks for himself. With the addition of Harmon and Young, expect Richardson to play more off ball in hopes of getting more three-point looks.

“We’ve got three guys who are very capable of running the show.” Altman said. “We don’t necessarily have a point guard.”

Joining Richardson in the back-court is Oklahoma transfer guard De’Vion Harmon. Harmon, a lefty, is expected to help run the offense as well as play lockdown defense. Last season Harmon averaged 12.9 points per game, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals. 

“It’s been great,” Harmon said. “We have been building a great foundation, day in and day out. I think what I bring to the team is leadership and competitiveness for sure.”

One of the most interesting players to watch this season is Rutgers transfer Jacob Young. The brother of Oregon basketball legend Joe Young, Jacob brings a similar scoring prowess. Averaging 11.2 points per game last season with the Scarlet Knights, Young will be relied on to handle the ball for the Ducks. The team will also count on him to play defense, where his 1.7 steals per game will lend itself to Oregon’s full court press.

“I like playing with De’Vion and Jacob,” Richardson said. “They are a little faster than me so they can control the pace… it should be pretty exciting.”

Also joining the Oregon backcourt is 6-foot-6 shooting guard Rivaldo Soares. The 2020 Western Junior College Athletic Conference player of the year averaged 15.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on 45.5% field goal shooting. Expect offensive production out of Soares, a shot creator looking to make a name for himself at the next level.

Forward

A 6-foot-7 do-it-all athlete, Eric Williams Jr. is the lone returning forward for Oregon after the departures of Duarte, LJ Figueroa and Eugene Omoruyi. After transferring from Duquesne, Williams Jr. found himself in a starting role for the Ducks last season. He thrived, averaging 10 points and six rebounds per game. Early in the 2021 season, he’s up his efficiency and scoring numbers.

Transfer Quincy Guerrier will have a chance to do something special at Oregon. A 6-foot-8, All-ACC player at Syracuse, Guerrier averaged 13.7 points per game last season. This year, surrounded by talent and an equally as successful zone defensive scheme, Guerrier is on the preseason watchlist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.

Lök Wur, in his redshirt sophomore season, will have an opportunity to find some rotation minutes. At 6-foot-9, 205 lbs, Wur is agile for his size. He posted two blocks last season against Oregon State, showing his ability to guard all positions.

Center

This year's Oregon center corps is huge and deep. With so much talent, there is much to be excited about and little certainty on who will end up as the starters and finishers come March.

Franck Kepnang joined the Ducks last season at the end of fall term. A top-50 four-star prospect out of Cameroon by way of the Westtown School in Pennsylvania, Kepnang burst onto the scene last season, grabbing big minutes in the absence of the injured N’Faly Dante. This season, in minutes off the bench, “Big Franck” has shown the same intensity and motor that has drawn the praise of many Duck fans and Altman.

“He’s playing with a lot of confidence that last year gave him… it's a work in progress, but man he works,” Altman said. “His teammates love him because he plays with tremendous energy.” 

Dante returns for his junior season after being sidelined for much of his sophomore campaign with injuries. Listed at 6-foot-11, Dante possesses great post presence and scoring ability, notably hitting 10-of-10 field goal attempts last season on Dec. 9 versus Florida A&M, part of a career-best 22 points. This year, should he stay healthy, look for Dante to make an impact in the paint at both ends of the floor.

Nathan Bittle is the highest-rated Oregon freshman this season. An Oregon native from Crater High School in Central Point, Bittle played his senior year of high school basketball at Prolific Prep in Napa, California to prepare for the competition at the Division I level. A stretch-five, Bittle can hurt teams from range just as well as he can use his 7-foot frame to manufacture shots down low and affect shooters on the defensive end. He will play behind Dante and Kepnang, but look for Bittle to improve and become an integral part of the Oregon basketball team by March.

Oregon’s fourth center is 7-footer Isaac Johnson. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who served on a mission, Johnson has not played competitive basketball in two years.

“I figure that if you haven’t played competitive basketball in two years, and you don't get to the gym often it’s difficult, '' Altman said. “I think he’ll be great; I think it’s going to take time.”

With other proven centers on the roster it will be interesting to see how Altman uses Johnson given his immense size and potential.