Ducks will have to adjust to life without a Luke
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
An era of Lukes will give way to an era of youth at Oregon.- Next season, coach Ernie Kent's eighth, the Ducks will have no seniors. And all six players recruited the past two years, including incoming freshmen Bryce Taylor, Chamberlain Oguchi and Maarty Leunen, could play key roles. Kent also wants to sign two players this month.
Luke Jackson will probably join former UO teammates Luke Ridnour and Fred Jones in the NBA, and it would not be surprising to see the Ducks picked below Oregon State in Pacific-10 Conference polls.
Is a sub-.500 season possible?
'It's going to be hard to replace Luke (Jackson), but we have a lot of guys here just waiting for their time,' point guard Aaron Brooks says.
The Ducks will return all their big players Ñ 6-11 Ian Crosswhite, 6-10 Mitch Platt, -7-foot Matt Short, 6-8 Adam Zahn and 7-foot redshirt Ray Schafer Ñ which could turn them more toward post play.
'We'll definitely be a post team,' Brooks says.
The big guys need to be more dominant offensively, rebound better and defend more aggressively. It makes sense for Kent to concentrate his entire offseason on the big men, or hire somebody to do it. Whereas the coach and his staff have developed perimeter players well, Bryan Bracey has been the only big man to make any significant impact during Kent's tenure, although the development of Chris Christoffersen provided the Ducks with the post option in 2001-02.
Platt needs to work on quickness and jumping ability. He has great instincts and solid fundamental skills. Crosswhite shot .562 and averaged 12.5 points and 5.0 rebounds, but he gets pushed around too often in the post and has trouble guarding quicker players. Short needs to get healthy. He was a projected starter this season, but his contribution was cut short recovering all year from a stress fracture in his foot. Zahn has terrific athletic upside. Let's see if he can play ball.
And Schafer enters the mix, with Jackson and others comparing him to a young Curtis Borchardt, the former Stanford star. 'He's going to be a great player,' Platt says. 'Physically, it was a good year for him to gain weight. He's going to be way ahead of the game.'
On the perimeter, the new faces will immediately make an impact. The 6-5 Oguchi, from suburban Houston, has Jones-type athleticism with a 3-point shot. The 6-4 Taylor, from North Hollywood, Calif., has a great range on his jumper and scoring ability. The 6-9 Leunen, from Redmond, can play several positions and could possibly replace Jackson at small forward or play power forward or center.
Of his 'bigs,' Kent said early in the season that 'there's not anybody in the Pac-10 with a better group of six.'
We'll see. The Ducks lose 62 percent of their scoring with the departure of Jackson and three other seniors; they lose 28 percent of their scoring and rebounding and 21 percent of their assists with Jackson alone. And they lose their three best 3-point shooters (Jackson, .440; Joseph, .441; Davis, .410).
The shooting percentages of returning perimeter players: Brooks, .371; Brandon Lincoln, .323; Jordan Kent, .302. On -3-pointers, Lincoln was .261 and Kent .188.
It appears Salim Stoudamire will be staying at Arizona, although the Wildcats have been noncommittal about the oft-moody guard. Coach Lute Olson says any Stoudamire could be dropped from scholarship if certain 'standards' are not met. Jawann McClellan, a 6-5 freshman, could challenge to start at shooting guard. He recently led his 39-0 Milby High team to the Texas Class 5A title. The Wildcats get four new recruits, plus injured Isaiah Fox back, and it could be that only Andre Iguodala leaves for the pros. 'We have all the pieces to be a great team,' former Wilson High guard Chris Rodgers said after UA's first-round NCAA exit, 'but we don't have the mental toughness that we need.'
Chris Botez, a 6-11 Madison graduate who played the past two years at Chemeketa Community College, has narrowed his Division I choices to Boise State and Hawaii, and will be visiting each this month. É Concordia coach Brad Barbarick touts the addition of Wilson High's 6-4 Cody Aker, a second-team all-PIL player who carries a 3.81 GPA. Aker's father, Scott, now the Wilson head coach, played for the Cavaliers in the 1980s. 'He is a player who is extremely smart and has a great understanding and feel for the game,' Barbarick says of Cody Aker. Barbarick also has high hopes for Madison grad Bobby Lester, a 6-8 center who saw limited time last season.