Oregon will be down a pair of post players for Saturday’s Civil War.
Francis Okoro has returned to Nigeria for his father’s funeral while N’Faly Dante’s knee injury will force him to miss a fifth straight game when No. 14 Oregon visits Oregon State at 7:30 p.m.
Okoro’s father died unexpectedly in December and the sophomore center is spending the week with his family.
“It is a week of celebration for his father and obviously that is very important so we wanted him to go back and spend time with his family,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said before practice on Thursday. “That has been a big weight on his shoulders here, being the oldest and not seeing his family for a long time. It has weighed on him and I’m glad he was able to go back and spend some time with his family.”
Okoro left Imo, Nigeria in 2014 to live with his aunt and uncle while attending high school in Illinois. He graduated from Normal West High School a year early to join the Ducks last season.
The 6-foot-9 Okoro is averaging 3.5 points while ranking third on the Ducks with 4.6 rebounds. He started the first 18 games he played this year before coming off the bench the past two weeks.
Okoro’s averages have dropped to 1.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in 10 Pac-12 games.
“I know it has been a tough time for him, any young person would have trouble with that,” Altman said. “His father passes, he hasn’t been there for a long time and he’s the oldest so he feels like he should be there. It hasn’t been easy for Francis and I don’t think it would be an easy time for any young person.”
Okoro had two points, two steals and five rebounds in 20 minutes during Oregon’s 70-60 loss at Stanford on Saturday.
“I probably made a mistake not playing him more,” Altman said. “He did a great job and was physical and rebounding, he kept the ball alive. I thought he had a good 20 minutes.”
Freshmen C.J. Walker and Chandler Lawson could see more time with Okoro and Dante out against the Beavers (13-9, 3-7). The Ducks (18-5, 7-3) have not outrebounded any of their past six opponents.
“Obviously Francis is a huge rebounder for us, so it is next man up,” Oregon guard Anthony Mathis said. “We are praying for Francis and hoping everything goes well over there. Guys have to step up, myself included. We have all got to get in and rebound and win the rebounding battle.”
Dante was injured in Oregon’s 64-61 overtime win at Washington on Jan. 18 and has not played during the past two weeks. His status moving forward remains uncertain.
“The doctors said he is not ready to go,” Altman said.