Coppin St. at Oregon
When: 9 p.m. Friday TV: Pac-12
EUGENE — Whenever Elijah Brown is mentioned, his name is usually followed by 20.9.
As in, Elijah Brown transferred to Oregon after averaging 20.9 points in two seasons at New Mexico.
Coppin St. at Oregon
When: 9 p.m. Friday TV: Pac-12
The number proves that Brown was one of the nation’s top scorers while playing in obscurity with the Lobos. It made him the summer headliner among graduate transfers before he landed at Oregon.
Brown’s addition helped the Ducks restock the roster with an all-conference talent after losing their top five scorers from last season’s Final Four team. It kept Oregon listed among the contenders in the Pac-12 and may have resulted in a few votes in the preseason national polls.
Yet Brown’s 20.9 scoring average at New Mexico must be taken in context because it occurred in a way that likely will not be repeated at Oregon.
The 6-foot-4 left-hander took 453 shots from the field while scoring 21.7 points as a sophomore and shot 438 times to reach 18.8 points per game last year. His combined shooting percentage during those two seasons was 40.4, including 36.3 on 3-pointers.
Only twice in Dana Altman’s seven seasons at Oregon has a player taken more than 438 shots in one season: Joe Young had 592 attempts in 2014-15 while shooting 44.8 percent from the field, and the following year, Dillon Brooks took 492 shots with a 47.0 percentage.
Brown took more shots in just 31 games last year than any Oregon player in 39 games. His 37.9 shooting percentage was lower than any regular in the Ducks’ rotation.
“We want him to improve his efficiency on offense,” Altman said. “We need him to be a little more selective. He can’t shoot those percentages for us and be efficient. They did not have a lot of scoring options (at New Mexico) and he felt like he had a lot of the scoring load.
“I think we have other guys that can score, so he won’t feel that pressure. Look how Dillon Brooks’ numbers progressed just because he didn’t feel like he had to put up as many shots. They were really good last year because we had other guys who can score.”
New Mexico had one other scorer in double figures last year, and two others hit that benchmark in 2015-16. The Lobos won 17 games in both seasons.
“I have had some decent scoring numbers but did not necessarily shoot the ball too well,” Brown said. “At least that put me in position to have schools like Oregon and others coming to me and I am fortunate for that. One thing that is missing from my career is winning.
“I have not really won since high school, and that is not a good feeling. Obviously, they win a lot of games here so I wanted to come and be coached to learn as much as I can and hopefully win a ton of games. That is what I had in mind coming here.”
Oregon has plenty of shots available with returnees Payton Pritchard, Roman Sorkin and Keith Smith combining for 345 of the 2,270 field-goal attempts for the Ducks last year.
Pritchard figures to boost his scoring average from 7.4, and five-star freshman Troy Brown will likely be among the top scorers for the Ducks, who could include up to nine players in their regular rotation.
“I am not going to go out and shoot the ball every time down the floor, that is not something I want to do,” Elijah Brown said. “My efficiency is something that has held me back the last couple years. I’ve been fortunate to put up decent scoring numbers, but I have always felt like I can be better with my assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting percentages. I think being here will give me my best shot at improving that.”
In two exhibition games, Brown shot 13-for-17 from the field, including 8-for-11 on 3-pointers to total 39 points in 44 minutes with nine assists and five rebounds.
Brown averaged 3.1 assists each of the past two seasons, which would have ranked second on the Ducks in both of those years. He had 5.2 rebounds per game last year after getting 5.5 as a sophomore.
“I have been really impressed with his work ethic, he is in the gym all the time working on the things we want him to do to improve his efficiency,” Altman said. “I love his competitiveness. I think he will have a good year for us.”
Altman is comfortable playing Brown for some minutes at point guard.
“The fact that Oregon plays up and down means a lot of opportunities to have assists to my teammates, put some balls in the basket and get deflections and steals on the defensive end,” Brown said.
“Everyone handles the ball well and is a threat to score. I have a lot of confidence in coach Altman and the staff that whatever they set out will work because we have the personnel for it.”
After graduating from New Mexico in the spring, Brown looked for a program that could give him better visibility to NBA teams. He consulted with his father, Mike — an assistant with the Golden State Warriors — before picking Oregon over Gonzaga and Iowa State.
“The older I have gotten, the more I appreciate what my dad brings to the table,” Brown said. “It is kind of hard sometimes to separate the coach and dad side, but we have done a good job to this point. Going through this process and wanting to get to the level he is already at, I use him as a resource any time I need him.”
Brown played his first two seasons of high school in Cleveland while his dad coached the Cavaliers. When Mike Brown was hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011, his son transferred to play two years at Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei.
Brown signed to play for Brad Stevens at Butler, but Stevens was hired by the Boston Celtics the summer Brown arrived on campus. Brown averaged 6.6 points per game as a freshman before transferring to play two seasons at New Mexico.
Brown earned all-Mountain West Conference honors both years before moving to Oregon for his final college season.
“At the end of the day, you can make it from anywhere so it came down to the fit for me,” Brown said. “It is definitely a blessing to play at this level.
“The Pac-12 is loaded and we have a tough schedule, so to have the chance to show what I can do at the highest level for my last year, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”