It won’t get the attention of Louis King or Bol Bol declaring for the NBA draft, but Oregon basketball is on its way to losing another one-and-done.
I’m talking about Miles Norris, a former four-star recruit who is exploring a transfer after his freshman season with the Ducks.
Most fans won’t perceive that as a huge loss. Norris averaged 3.3 points and played a total of 4 minutes in the NCAA Tournament, including zero in the Ducks’ Sweet 16 loss to Virginia. But if you want to understand how Oregon has gotten stuck in a cycle of turnover, guys like Norris are a good place to start.
Quite a bit has been said about Oregon’s decision to wade into the one-and-done talent pool. It’s easy to look at Bol, King and Troy Brown and wonder if they lived up to the hype.
What we sometimes neglect to mention is that, in this era of college basketball, every player is a potential one-and-done. That doesn’t mean they’re all going to declare for the NBA draft, but you can bet every single player is assessing his options at the conclusion of each season.
It’s tough to invest so much energy into recruiting a player like Bol and watch him play only nine games, just like it’s tough to say adieu to King just as he was starting to blossom as a college basketball player.
But do you know what really hurts? Recruiting a player, helping him develop, then losing him before you can see any of the rewards.
I don’t know how much Norris would have played next season. With Francis Okoro coming back, Kenny Wooten likely returning and two four-star forwards coming in, he might not have gotten the minutes he wanted.
Norris would have had a role, though, and possibly a big one. I liked his game in the limited minutes he played as a freshman. He was raw, but he brought energy and athleticism every time he was on the floor.
It’s just a bummer that, in this era of college basketball, you rarely get a chance to see those players develop. Anyone who’s a top-100 recruit comes to college expecting to contribute right away. If it doesn’t happen, those players are quick to enter the transfer portal and explore other options.
I don’t say that to criticize Norris or Victor Bailey, the two Oregon underclassmen who appear to be moving on. Four years go by fast, and you can’t blame players for wanting to make the most of their college careers.
Bailey and Norris are doing what hundreds of other players around the country have chosen to do. As someone who believes in player autonomy, I don’t blame them for that. I do mourn the lost art of player development, though, and wonder how much that contributes to the general malaise afflicting Pac-12 basketball.
Oregon has been better than most schools at managing constant turnover. This year’s run to the Sweet 16 was a perfect example: The Ducks appeared messy and disjointed for most of the year, but when it counted, they jelled into a cohesive whole.
The hope was that Oregon could carry momentum from that postseason run into next year rather than starting over from scratch. Based on the first few weeks of the offseason, that will be a tough ask.
Bol and King are gone to the draft. Norris and Bailey are transferring. Wooten and Payton Pritchard are exploring the NBA. That leaves Okoro, Will Richardson and three incoming recruits as the bulk of next year’s team.
Knowing Dana Altman, the Ducks will figure things out sometime in February and again be a threat in March. But if you were hoping for a seamless transition, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed.
It’s easy to blame Bol and King for that. They’re the most high-profile examples of the transient nature of college basketball. But what’s better: One year with a player who’s good enough to get drafted, or one year with a player who barely contributes.
At least the one-and-dones offer some certainty. There was no ambiguity about Bol’s intentions: He came to play one year of college basketball and go to the NBA. Everyone knew the deal.
It’s different when a player comes to develop, then bails after a year or two. The departures often seem insignificant at the time, but the cumulative effect is a program with persistent roster churn.
Oregon is hardly the only school dealing with that reality. It’s endemic to the sport of college basketball. Still, it’s striking to look back at Oregon’s 2018 recruiting class, the highest-rated in school history, and see three of the five players already gone.
I can't fault Norris and Bailey for moving on. A lot of players would do the same in their shoes. But when you see all of these role players bouncing between schools, you can understand why recruiting and roster building have gotten so out of whack.
The two most valuable assets in college basketball are a multi-year starter and a one-year NBA draft pick. And right now, there’s almost nothing in between.