Ducks or draft?
overhead deck UO's Luke Ridnour has a huge career decision ahead 1/18/3 deck: The junior guard has until May 11 to enter the NBA draft
His head was full of disappointment rather than dreams of the NBA after last week's 60-58, season-ending loss to Utah.
'Can't think about that right now,' guard Luke Ridnour said of the NBA draft June 26. 'Can't even think really straight right now.'
Give Ridnour some credit for his resolve. Despite whirling speculation, he never budged from his stance of thinking season first, NBA second. The subject probably won't be broached between Ridnour and Oregon coach Ernie Kent for 'four to six weeks, maybe longer,' the coach says.
Ridnour has until May 11 to declare for the draft. Pre-draft camps are April 9-12 in Portsmouth, Va., and June 3-6 in Chicago, and Ridnour can withdraw his name from the draft until June 18.
'Haven't talked with him about it,' Kent said. 'Speculate all you want. You're guessing at the wind,' he added, until Ridnour and Luke Jackson 'can thoroughly digest everything, with themselves and their families.'
The families of Ridnour and Jackson have been contacted by agents Ñ before and during the season Ñ and Ridnour's family has begun interviewing them. Kent will reiterate to the Lukes how good the Ducks could be next year with 10 returning scholarship players and the addition of touted guard Aaron Brooks and two good big men.
Ridnour does not like school. Never has. The ESPN piece on the Ducks during last year's NCAA tourney showed him to be very disinterested in it.
'Got to go to class to get your (scholarship) money,' he told the Trib last summer. 'It's part of your job. Getting a degree is important. Really important to the family. But I like to play basketball. I'm here to play basketball.'
'It'd be tough to say no (to the NBA money),' he said last March.
How high would Ridnour go? Some talk has him being the second-best point guard. He could be the first if Texas sophomore T.J. Ford stays in school.
But it's easy to imagine Ridnour slipping from the NBA lottery (the top 13 picks). Is he really in the same league as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, David West, Dwyane Wade and Darko Milicic? Or is he closer to Dan Dickau, the last pick of the first round in 2002?
There are concerns about his foot speed and his dependence on his right-hand dribble Ñ he has trouble going left, a weakness that Utah exploited on Friday's final possession. Then there are these comments from two NBA personnel men, quoted in the Los Angeles Daily News.
'He runs you all night and makes you spend all your energy on the defensive end,' one scout said. 'A lot of people hate playing guys like that. The thing that needs to improve is his jump shot.'
'He'd go high (in the draft),' said another, 'but if he were smart, he'd stay in school. The only question I have is, when I see him against real good athletes, he doesn't do real well. (Terrance) Johnson at Pepperdine shut him down, and he had a devil of a time against Cincinnati.'
Utah coach Rick Majerus and Ridnour spoke briefly after Friday's game. 'He said, 'You're a helluva player. Keep working hard and see what happens,' ' Ridnour said.
Majerus advised Ridnour to stay in school, forget about the fear of getting hurt and just take out an insurance policy.
'He's a helluva player, and he'll be a damn good NBA player,' Majerus said.
Holding back for too long
Majerus got the best of Kent in the NCAA Tournament game. Majerus had four players on the bench in the final minutes, yet his team staved off Oregon, which had its full complement of players and the momentum.
The Ducks went to their press to quicken the pace way too late, Jackson said. 'We played right into their hands for 30 minutes of that game,' he said. 'That's exactly what Rick Majerus wanted: slow the game down, control the possessions.
'Unfortunately, we probably didn't press soon enough. That's a disappointing way to end your season. É We had the entire game to compensate for what they were doing.'
Kent conceded that the Ducks would press at some point, but with the team's 9-0 lead nearly five minutes in, 'you have the tempo.' For the next 25 minutes, however, Utah controlled the game, and the Ducks, so dependent on shooting, made only .345 (.176 on 3-pointers).
The Utes did not score a field goal in the game's last 5:07. 'We were drawing things up,' Majerus said. 'We didn't have plays. We don't have plays when you have two point guards, two 2-guards and a '3' out there. But we did a great job of playing through adversity.'
Final shots: Jackson would be a bigger loss than Ridnour. Sound crazy? The Ducks have an All-American prep, Brooks, coming in to replace Ridnour but no one slotted to replace the kind of production that Jackson gives them. Jackson, though, probably will return to provide star power and stability.
It's obvious that Ian Crosswhite needs to get better and more explosive, and the Ducks' post game needs to strike fear into teams. We'll see whether Crosswhite, Matt Short, Adam Zahn, Ray Shafer and Mitch Platt can help elevate Oregon, especially if Ridnour leaves.