Louis King may not be able to play in his homecoming game.
The five-star freshman has yet to practice since arriving at Oregon in June as he continues to rehab from a torn meniscus suffered during his senior year of high school in January.
“He’s doing some things, but nothing live yet,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I don’t know when he will be back but we are hoping he gets cleared at some point in time.”
The Jersey City, N.J. native said in an interview during the spring that he hoped to be ready to play in front of numerous friends and family members when Oregon arrives for the the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Nov. 15-16.
“I’m not going to make any predictions,” Altman said of King’s timetable for a return. “Whenever the doctors clear him, we will get him out there.”
The 6-foot-9 King was ranked among the Top 20 recruits in his class by multiple recruiting sites. He and Bol Bol were the two five-star recruits in Oregon’s five-man freshman class that is ranked among the top three or four in the nation by most analysts.
King was chosen for the McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit after averaging 15.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in a shortened senior season at Hudson Catholic High School, but he had to sit out each of those games due to his knee injury.
King was expected to be a starter from the time he arrived at Oregon, but his status is unclear as the Ducks move within four weeks of opening the season at home against Portland State on Nov. 6.
“He has to take his time, we want him to be healthy,” UO point guard Payton Pritchard said. “You don’t want to force him to come back when he’s not ready. When he’s ready, he needs to be full-go, he doesn’t need to be half speed. By the time he comes back, we are going to want to be hitting our stride. Hopefully he can come in right away and produce.”
King will likely be on a minutes restriction during his first few games for the Ducks, who play five of their 13 nonconference games out of Oregon, equaling the most in Altman’s nine seasons as coach. Last year, the Ducks only trip out of state before Pac-12 play was to Fresno State.
“I think it will be great because games like this will prepare us to where we want to get in March and April,” Pritchard said. “Last year, we didn’t really have big road games and I don’t think that mentally prepared us. This year we go on the road four times so that should be a lot of fun with some crazy atmospheres.”
After opening with two home games, Oregon faces Iowa on the opening night of the 2K Empire Classic followed by a matchup with Syracuse or Connecticut on the following evening.
“That’s a scary tournament,” Altman said. “Iowa has got everybody back from a year ago and I believe Syracuse has four starters back. UConn has always given us fits. For Syracuse and UConn, that is almost like a home game with their crowds. We will have a tough time in that tournament with Iowa’s experience and whoever we play on the second night with the crowd.”
Oregon visits Houston on Dec. 1 when the Cougars play their first game at the Fertitta Center, an on-campus arena that underwent a $60-million renovation. The Ducks close out the nonconference schedule at Baylor on Dec. 21 and Boise State on Dec. 29.
“We have three true road games which will test us,” Altman said. “We do have some travel ahead of us. With freshmen, it will be interesting to see how they go into those venues. We are opening a building in Houston and you remember what opening night was like (at Matthew Knight Arena), so that will be a big night for them. Boise has always given us problems so that will be a good game because they challenge us. We have played Baylor in previous years and they help prepare us because they play zone and play different ways. I always think Baylor is good to play because we will see some zones before conference season starts.”
Houston, Baylor and Boise State are all scheduled to visit MKA next season.
“That benefits us in future years, but it is a little tougher this year,” Altman said.