Payton Pritchard played 1,348 minutes during his junior year at Oregon, six more than any other player in Division I college basketball.
“I should get a plaque for that,” he joked.
Officially, Pritchard hasn’t decided whether he’ll return to Oregon to defend the title. He’s taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows players to work with agents and participate in pre-draft workouts without sacrificing their eligibility, assuming they withdraw from the draft before the May 29 deadline.
Pritchard said he’s keeping an open mind about the process, but he also said he’s excited about playing his senior season for coach Dana Altman.
“If there is a great opportunity at the next level, then I’m going to have to take it,” Pritchard said Wednesday. “I would love to be back and go at it again, play for coach for another year and finish out my senior year. That would be unbelievable in my eyes.”
Bol Bol and Louis King have already signed with agents and announced plans to turn pro. Pritchard and sophomore Kenny Wooten are exploring their NBA options while keeping their eligibility intact.
Both seem likely to return barring a sudden spike in their draft stock, but until they make their intentions official, the Ducks will be operating with some uncertainty about next year’s roster.
“You see across the country everybody’s doing it,” Altman said. “They’ll get a chance to go work out with some teams and see where they stand and what they need to work on.
“It’s a good process for the players. It makes it a little uneasy for us trying to put a team together, but over the long run you’ve got to do what’s best for your players.”
The Ducks are expected to have nine players on scholarship for next year’s team if Pritchard and Wooten return. That leaves four openings Oregon could fill during the spring signing period, which began Wednesday.
The Ducks are pursuing a mix of transfers and high school recruits, including point guard Cole Anthony, the top unsigned player in the country.
“We’re just looking for guys that fit, whether they’re transfers, whether they’re junior college players, grad transfers, some high school players,” Altman said. “We’re looking at everything.”
The Ducks must replace Bol and King, plus seniors Paul White and Ehab Amin. Much will hinge on the return of Pritchard, a three-year starter who ignited Oregon’s run to the Sweet 16.
Pritchard finished the season on a tear, averaging 16.0 points and 5.5 assists over Oregon’s final 12 games. He didn’t make an all-conference team as a junior, which inspired some changes he hopes to carry into next season.
“It really put a chip back on my shoulder that I think I lost a little bit,” he said. “I wanted to prove people wrong. It changed me a little bit. I think now I’m back on the right track where I should be.”
Pritchard said he’ll continue attending classes and participating in workouts at Oregon while also working out in Los Angeles. NBA agent Greg Lawrence is advising him.
“Everyone can go through the process,” Pritchard said. “If you have the opportunity to, why not?”
Elevating his game, both for next season at Oregon and his eventual pro career, is Pritchard’s offseason goal. He wants to become more athletic, improve his touch on floaters and mid-range shots and try to condition himself for an even heavier workload next year.
“Even though I played so many minutes, I really think I might have taken a few minutes off,” Pritchard said. “Hopefully next year I can eliminate minutes off.”