EUGENE, Ore. — Let’s face it. At least at the start of Oregon’s season, all eyes will be on Bol Bol.
The 7-3 son of the late Manute Bol is the highest-ranked prospect ever signed by the 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 Player’s Tribune, Bol said he had 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.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL RANKINGS: Kansas, Kentucky lead AP preseason Top 25
“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 White has said he expects Bol to only stick around for a 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. “It’s going to be a challenge to our coaching staff to make sure we get him the ball enough and make sure we let him show everything that he can do.”
— Oregon Men’s Basketball (@OregonMBB) October 13, 2018
Bol is one of the reasons No. 14 Oregon was picked to finish atop the Pac-12 this season. The Ducks went to the Final Four two seasons ago, but stumbled a bit 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 (14.5 points and 4.8 assists per game), fellow starter Paul White (9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds) and Kenny Wooten, who led the Pac-12 as a freshman last season with 2.6 blocks per game.
“They were a little disappointed last year. We didn’t play very well. Defensively we weren’t very good,” Altman said. “We’ve got some major adjustments and we’ve got to get a lot better on the defensive end to have a good team.”
Other things to know:
KING’S KNEE: In addition to Bol, the Ducks also added five-star forward Louis King. But he won’t be on the court at the start while he recovers from a knee injury. King tore his meniscus during his senior season in Jersey City, New Jersey. Altman said he expected the 6-9 forward to be back sometime around 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.
STEAL SPECIALIST: One of Altman’s areas of emphasis this season is defense, and one newcomer should give the Ducks immediate help: Graduate transfer Ehab Amin. A guard who missed last year with a hip injury, Amin led the nation with 3.4 steals per game as a junior at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
RANKINGS: At No. 14 in the AP Top 25, Oregon earned 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,” he said.
PRAISE FOR THE WOMEN’S SIDE: Oregon’s women were expected to be highly ranked, too, marking the first time in school history that both teams are in the AP Top 25. Last season the women’s team won the Pac-12 regular-season title, the Pac-12 tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to Notre Dame.
“Man, with Sabrina (Ionescu) and Ruthy (Hebard), that core group back from two Elite Eights, they’re really good. Sabrina and Ruthy have been really fun to watch the last two years,” Altman said.
SCHEDULE: Last season the Ducks got challenged at the start-studded PK80 tournament honoring Nike co-founder Phil Knight on his 80th birthday. The nonconference slate isn’t as difficult this season, but does feature Iowa and the possibility of either Syracuse or UConn at the 2K Empire Classic in November. No. 21 UCLA and No. 25 Washington are the only other Pac-12 teams that are ranked in the preseason.