Miles Norris played one minute in his Oregon debut.
UO coach Dana Altman should be able to get a longer look at the 6-foot-10 true freshman when Florida A&M arrives at Matthew Knight Arena at 3 p.m. Tuesday
The Ducks are not expected to have freshman center Bol Bol against the Rattlers because of a foot injury and sophomore forward Abu Kigab is questionable with an ankle injury.
Oregon (7-3) could be down to nine scholarship players, but depth probably will not be a concern against Florida A&M (2-10), which has dropped 10 straight games following a 93-64 loss at Utah on Monday that will likely leave it arriving in Eugene about 12 hours before tip-off.
The Rattlers are the last team on the schedule that looks like a tune-up before Pac-12 play for Oregon, which closes out the nonconference schedule at Baylor and Boise State.
Norris was a four-star recruit out of San Diego who was slated to redshirt this season, but initially appeared to be put into action in Saturday’s 66-54 win over Boise State as a result of injuries to Bol and Kigab. However, Altman said the decision to play Norris this season was made last week.
“Miles decided a week ago after he finished the quarter that he wanted to play and his mom came in and he sat down and said he wanted to play and not redshirt,” Altman said.
Norris had been hoping all along to play this season.
“One thing I have to say about Miles is that he may seem introverted or like a quiet guy, but he has a real burning desire to compete and he doesn’t back down,” said Christina Norris, Miles’ mother. “If you tell him that he needs to do this and this or this is the situation, he is going to hit it head on. He just really wants to contribute.”
Altman had considered a redshirt to allow the 210-pound Norris to get stronger, but he has added 15 pounds since arriving at Oregon. He got to know fellow freshmen Louis King, Will Richardson and Bol on the AAU circuit in high school and wanted to play with them while knowing Bol and King are candidates to turn pro after this season.
“We started talking a lot about how to contribute if your minutes are very limited,” said Christina Norris, who played basketball at Oregon in the 1980s. “I said if you want something, you have to fight for it every day. Stay positive and work and good things will happen. It is a long season and you never know what can happen. This is not a situation we wanted for him to get more minutes with injuries, but it is what it is and now you have to take advantage of the opportunity and be ready.”
Altman could not get Norris in Wednesday’s 65-55 win over San Diego because the Toreros were still within five points in the final four minutes.
After Kigab left Saturday’s 66-54 win over Boise State in the second half, Norris took the floor with 11:19 left to play and was on the court for 61 seconds when Altman wanted to see how his length helped Oregon’s press. He returned for the final eight seconds.
Norris could get an earlier call against the Rattlers in what may be a showcase to earn more playing time moving forward.
“His shooting has really improved the last month, so that has been encouraging,” Altman said. “His board play and activity has increased. He is a very good athlete. Obviously, we are 10 games into it so he is a little bit behind in playing time, but we don’t have big numbers so he’s been in every possession in practice because we don’t have guys to rest. I think he can make the adjustment quick and give us a few minutes with his athleticism. He will not play a major role to start, but I think there is a role for him.”
Norris faced a similar situation last year when he transferred from Helix High School in San Diego to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for his senior year.
“There were guys who were tough and good and he decided he wanted to go there because he needed to prepare for college,” Christina Norris said. “He was taken out of his comfort zone and said he knew what he was going up against. It is also a tough academic school and he said he was shooting for ‘A’s’ and he got a 3.8 the first semester and 3.6 the second. I know when my kid says he’s going to do something, he would not say that if he was not going to do it.”
Norris, who played his first two years of high school at Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei, was ranked as the No. 78 prospect in his class by ESPN.
“He’s crazy athletic,” Oregon senior forward Paul White said. “I think he is someone with a bright future. He can run and shoot and dribble as well. I think he is someone who can do it all, one of those versatile players Oregon loves. I think he fits in well with this group.”
Freshman forward Francis Okoro also is in line for additional minutes if Bol remains out of the lineup.
The 6-foot-9 Okoro, who graduated early from Normal West (Ill.) High School to arrive at Oregon this season, had 14 points and 11 rebounds in a total of 35 minutes during Oregon’s opening wins over Portland State and Eastern Washington. He played 27 minutes in UO’s next six games and did not get off the bench against San Diego before playing 14 minutes against Boise State when he had five points.
“Francis is doing fine, he is continuing to work and make progress in practice,” Altman said last week.
Florida A&M head coach Robert McCullum is in his second year after serving as Oregon’s assistant director of basketball operations for three seasons under Altman. He arrived at Oregon after serving as head coach at Western Michigan and South Florida.
The Rattlers opened the season with wins over Jacksonville and Tuskegee, but have lost at Loyola Marymount, DePaul and Georgia Tech during the last month. Justin Ravenel, a 6-1 senior, leads the team with 14.3 points per game but no other player is scoring more than eight points.