Bronny James may very well want to play basketball at Oregon next season.
Except for this: Ducks coach Dana Altman has not actually offered the nation’s 33rd-ranked recruit a scholarship.
Some might see that as a bit of an obstacle.
Not Bronny’s dad.
LeBron James said Sunday that “there’s a chance” his oldest son will play at Oregon next season and that he discussed the possibility with Altman last summer during an encounter on the Nike campus.
“Dana knows,” James said. “He knows the interest. And it’s mutual.”
James confirmed Altman hasn’t offered Bronny a scholarship, but dismissed the notion that it could mean the interest is actually a little more one-sided than LeBron had suggested.
“I think Bronny can go to any college he wants to,” LeBron said.
He spoke to The Oregonian/OregonLive on his way out of Portland’s Moda Center after scoring 37 points in a Lakers win over the Trail Blazers.
“All I have to do is pick up the phone,” he continued. “If Bronny says he wants to go there, he’s good enough.”
Last week, ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony called Bronny, a 6-foot-2 point guard, “one of the best two-way players in high school basketball and a surefire future NBA player.”
He may be the nation’s most closely watched recruit and has been linked to Oregon by various reports for months.
According to a report from the Los Angeles Times last week, Oregon is among Bronny’s top three schools, along with Ohio State and USC.
LeBron was raised in Ohio and is a huge fan of the Buckeyes. LeBron plays his home games just a couple miles from USC’s campus.
Is it really possible that instead of one of those options Bronny could instead suit up at Matthew Knight Arena next season?
“He’s going to make his own decision,” James said. “But there’s a chance.”
UO and James share an obvious connection with Phil Knight and Nike. It would be foolish to ignore that as a factor, but James on Sunday put the focus instead on what Altman has built in Eugene and what it could do for Bronny’s career.
“I think it’s the ability to put pros into the league,” James said. “My son wants to be a pro. It’s the way you hold guys accountable, the way they play. I guess he’s seen the way they play. Dana Altman from the outside looks like a great coach.
“He’s been winning for quite a while here at Oregon, so Bronny’s smart enough to see all that.”
Bronny is also close friends with Mookie Cook, the five-star Oregon signee who is slated to portray a young LeBron in an upcoming biopic. That’s one more link to the Ducks.
“Mookie is going there,” James said, “and they’ve been talking.”
All of this is a long way from the younger James actually making his way to Eugene.
The Ducks already have one of the nation’s top recruiting classes with Cook, forward Kwame Evans Jr. and West Linn point guard Jackson Shelstad. The Ducks are also likely to return some of their incumbent guards, including Keeshawn Barthelemy and Jermaine Couisnard.
Does that make Oregon the most obvious landing spot for James? Especially if he wants to start right away? Not really. But those are the kinds of questions that will come into sharper relief in the months ahead.
The Ducks are also in the midst of what is shaping up as their worst season since Altman’s first year on campus. After losing at Stanford on Saturday, the Ducks (11-9, 5-4 Pac-12) are likely headed for their second consecutive NIT appearance.
James would not only bring a dose of celebrity and interest to the program, it would give them another top-50 recruit who is exploding as a prospect as Altman tries to get things back on track.
Once seen as a mid-level prospect who would need time to develop, the tenor in the coverage of the younger James has grown increasingly positive in the last month, since his Sierra Canyon team lost to West Linn — and Shelstad — in the semifinals of the Les Schwab Invitational in Hillsboro.
“He’s just in a good groove,” LeBron said of Bronny. “He’s a great kid, he loves for the team to get better. But he has aspirations. Huge aspirations.”
One of them just might be to play for the Oregon Ducks.