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The Lukes of Hazard

The intrepid juniors are bringing respect to UO's long-dormant basketball program

Luke Ridnour saunters into the McArthur Court press room and lies down on the countertop. The legendary gym rat from Blaine, Wash., is exhausted from practice, nursing 'a dead leg' after getting kneed, wearing loosefitting sweat pants and his retro Atlanta Braves hat backward.

Luke Jackson shuffles in and collapses into a chair. The Creswell product is exhausted from practice, ice strapped to his sore left knee, wearing loosefitting sweat pants and his baseball hat backward.

The two University of Oregon juniors put the 'L' in laid-back. They also have put the jump in jump-starting Duck basketball. They are part Luke the disciple, Luke Skywalker, Luke Perry and Cool Hand Luke: Loyal followers, swashbuckling heroes, teen idols, rebels for their cause.

A question-and-answer session went like this:

Tribune: 'Rid,' you're on a New York City billboard É is that exploitation?

Ridnour: I don't pay attention to it. It's just to get our team recognition, but it does put a mark on your team and yourself. It makes you rise to the occasion and keeps you accountable. You try not to think about it as a fear of failure thing.

Tribune: The coach and university make big-time money in college hoops. You guys don't get squat, other than a scholarship. Is that hypocritical?

Ridnour: I love playing, and it's an opportunity to play. I don't think about the money.

Tribune: Ever dream of a new car, new house and bags of bling-bling?

Ridnour: Not really. I don't think of what I'm going to buy when I get a chance.

Jackson: I already got a lot of stuff.

Tribune: Tell me about your hometowns.

Ridnour: Blaine is a border town. There's always activity. A lot of my friends have been caught trying to run drugs across. Any border town is going to have drugs, and our town has quite a bit. Not just from our town but from other people coming there, like Canadians É mainly marijuana. I've seen a lot of busts, a lot of people go down.

Jackson: Creswell's a farming and logging community. A basketball town. I love it, the small-town atmosphere. You can get to know people so well.

Tribune: You two always look so serious. What makes you chuckle?

Jackson: I love 'Seinfeld.' Hilarious. You have to appreciate the humor of 'Seinfeld.' My mom doesn't understand it.

Ridnour: I think it's a guy show.

Tribune: What else on TV?

Ridnour: 'Friends.'

Jackson: I'm not into the realistic shows. I like 'Joe Millionaire,' though.

Tribune: What makes you angry?

Ridnour: I don't like to lose. I don't get angry. There's too much going on in life to get too angry.

Jackson: That's well said. You've got to be strong enough to let it go, especially with basketball; the people you hang out with you'll be around all the time. There's no reason to damage any relationships.

Tribune: Rid, you're deeply religious?

Ridnour: So is he. Protestant Christian. I've been to a Catholic church a couple times. A lot different than ours, that's for sure.

Jackson: Yeah, a lot more tradition, rituals, a lot of doctrine. It's very serious.

Tribune: What's the most absurd heckling you've heard?

Jackson: One thing that really bothered me was, I had someone last game against Oregon State, one of our fans, just come up and yell at me. A grown man comes up and screams some foul things in my face. I was like, 'Whoa.' It was halftime. I didn't say anything; people are going to have their opinion, but É .

Tribune: I'm sure you two have met some famous people.

Jackson: Michael Jordan. I got a chance to talk with him, he was working with us (at a basketball camp). He's exactly what you see on TV: the perfect spokesman for basketball, represents himself and his company well. He just said I was a good player and he'd be watching me. He told Ian Crosswhite, 'Dunking isn't for everybody.' (laughs)

Ridnour: (John) Stockton. Met him in high school, a real low-key guy, helped me out with recruiting and stuff like that.

Tribune: What's it like playing in a very loud Mac Court?

Jackson: There's so much that Mac Court does for our team, and fans think they're helping us win games. They motivate us. You do something spectacular or whatever, you feel them.

Ridnour: Can't even hear yourself, really. I get so excited. So much energy. It's pretty cool.

Tribune: You two seem shy and withdrawn. Do you like the attention? Give autographs?

Jackson: I don't mind kids. It comes with the territory. It's something you have to do.

Ridnour: I'd rather just meet somebody. I don't see what a signature does for somebody.

Tribune: If you don't go pro next season, or if just you do, Rid, will the Ducks be pretty decent?

Ridnour: Right now, I'm just worrying about this year. We've got a long way to go, and we can get a lot better. Once you start thinking ahead, even to next season, you're in trouble.

Jackson: It's something we don't talk about at all. We focus on the great things that can happen and enjoying every minute of it, being a part of this basketball team and loving what we're doing.