Let’s face it. At least at the start of Oregon’s season, all eyes will be on Bol Bol.
The 7-foot-3 son of the late Manute Bol is the highest-ranked prospect ever signed by the men’s basketball Ducks.
Considered the top prospect at center and among the top three recruits in the country, Bol selected Oregon over Kentucky.
In an article about his choice posted to The Players’ Tribune, Bol said he had definitely considered his dad when he made the decision. Manute Bol was a 7-7 center who played 12 seasons in the NBA. He passed away in 2010.
“Here’s what I know. I know my dad would want me to represent my family well. I know he would want me to pursue my interests outside of basketball, like music, fashion and eventually, the humanitarian work that he began in Sudan,” Bol wrote.
The younger Bol is also going to have the attention of the NBA. Coach Dana Altman has said he expects Bol to stick around for only one season.
“A unique young man, unique player. I’ve enjoyed working with him so far, and I think he’s going to be fun to utilize,” Altman said.
Bol is one of the reasons No. 14 Oregon was picked to finish atop the Pac-12. The Ducks stumbled last season, going 23-13 overall and 10-8 in the Pac-12 and wrapping up the season in the NIT.
Three players from that team, Elijah Brown, MiKyle McIntosh and Troy Brown Jr., have moved on. The Ducks return top scorer Payton Pritchard, fellow starter Paul White and Kenny Wooten.
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In addition to Bol, the Ducks added five-star forward Louis King. But he will not be on the court at the start while he recovers from a knee injury. King tore a meniscus during his senior season in Jersey City, New Jersey. Altman said he expected the 6-9 forward to be back sometime about Dec. 1.
“I think we’ll be conservative with it because he’s got a tremendous future, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” Altman said.
One of Altman’s areas of emphasis this season is defense, and graduate transfer Ehab Amin should give the Ducks immediate help. Amin led the nation with 3.4 steals per game as a junior at Texas A&M Corpus Christi two seasons ago.
At No. 14 in the AP Top 25, Oregon received its second-highest preseason ranking in school history. Two seasons ago the Ducks were ranked No. 5 going into the season. Altman said the current squad relishes the challenge of living up to the expectations.
“I think we’ll be able to score some points, but our big concern is defensively and on the boards, we’re going to have to be really good in those two areas to make the improvement and to try to challenge for a conference championship,” the coach said.
Last season the Ducks got challenged at the star t-studded PK80 tournament honoring Nike co-founder Phil Knight on his 80th birthday. The nonconference slate is not as difficult this season, but it does feature Iowa and the possibility of either Syracuse or UConn at the 2K Empire Classic in November. Oregon plays a home exhibition against Western Oregon on Thursday and opens the regular season Nov. 6 in Eugene against Portland State. The Ducks’ Pac-12 opener is Jan. 5 at home against rival Oregon State.