Best Ducks day ever
Talking Northwest college hoops …
• There has never been a better day in University of Oregon basketball history than Saturday. Not even close.
First the Oregon women knock off Maryland to reach the Elite Eight for the first time, earning a chance to end Connecticut's 110-game win streak.
Then the Oregon men of coach Dana Altman take it to Kansas to make the Final Four for the first time since the first time — 1939, when the Webfoots won it all in the inaugural event.
Sure, Oregon's "Tall Firs" won the NCAA title in '39. But that was back when the NIT was a bigger deal than the NCAAs— and there was slightly less national attention than today.
When you figure in the twin killing, it's the ultimate red-letter day in Ducks sports history — or at least in the conversation with the two recent forays to the national championship football game.
• If there is a Cinderella team in women's college basketball this year, it's Oregon.
The Ducks didn't just beat the nation's No. 4-ranked team, Maryland, in Saturday's Sweet Sixteen at Bridgeport, Connecticut. They blew the No. 3-seeded Terrapins away 77-63, with freshmen Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard leading the way.
A No. 10 seed, Oregon struggled through parts of the regular season and didn't have its NCAA Women's Tournament bid locked down until it won two games at the Pac-12 tournament. To think the Ducks made it to the national quarterfinals is almost unfathomable.
In his third season, coach Kelly Graves has built a team capable of challenging Oregon State —which has won 13 in a row against the Ducks — for supremacy in the state next season. UO starts three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior, and they'll all be back for another run at the Final Four in 2017-18.
• Oregon's men didn't just beat No. 1 seed Kansas in Saturday's Elite Eight match in what amounted to a home game for the third-ranked Jayhawks at Kansas City. The Ducks pounded them 74-60, with Tyler Dorsey running his string of 20-point outings to seven in a magnificent postseason run.
This likely sews up a National Coach of the Year Award for Dana Altman. Does anybody remember that the Ducks lost two of their first five games, dropping them from No. 5 in the preseason poll all the way out of the rankings?
It will be interesting to see which of the Oregon players return next season. Seniors Chris Boucher and Dylan Ennis will be gone. But what about juniors Dillon Brooks, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, or rising star Jordan Bell, both projected as early second-round NBA draft picks? And how much has the stock of Dorsey, a sophomore, risen with his play in the postseason?
The guess here is that Brooks, Bell and Dorsey all return to Eugene for another season. It's too much fun to be a Duck right now.
• Oregon State's women squeezed as much as they could have out a season with only one star (Sydney Wiese) instead of three after losing seniors Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin from its Final Four club of a year ago.
Saturday's loss to Florida State was disheartening, especially after the Beavers jumped out to a 21-4 lead. But OSU, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12, won its third straight conference regular-season title with defense and grit. To finish 31-5 is a tribute to coach Scott Rueck, who will go into next season without Wiese and in search of a more balanced offense to go with one of the best defensive packages in the nation.
Recruiting will be critical for Rueck over the next couple of years. He has a top-20-ranked class coming in next year, including 6-8 Polish native Joanna Grymek, who played at Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas, this season. She was the No. 2-ranked junior-college player in the nation by one service.
The Saints finished 32-3 this season and reached the national quarterfinals. In a season-ending loss to defending national champion Gulf Coast, Grymek had 26 points and 16 rebounds. She averaged 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks while playing only 25 minutes a game.
The Beavers will also add 5-9 guard Aleah Goodman of La Salle Prep, who led the Falcons to the Oregon Class 5A championship, and 6-3 forward Taya Corosdale of Bothell, Washington, a five-star who averaged 18.7 points and 10.9 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 2.1 blocks as a senior this season.
Rueck, too, has a verbal commitment from a high school junior — 6-9 Andrea Aquino, a native of Paraguay living in Paterson, New Jersey. Aquino, who has been playing basketball for only three years, averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and 6.5 blocks this season.
• Oregon State's men recently added a player coaches expect to contribute as a freshman — 6-6 forward Alfred Hollins, a San Francisco native who is a senior at Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix.
Collins, a teammate of 7-foot DeAndre Ayton — one of the nation's top-rated players who is Arizona-bound — is "athletic, can get to the rim and can shoot it," says an insider who has watched him play. "And he is an excellent defender."
Oregon State also is recruiting 7-foot Kylor Kelley, a Gervais native who averaged 8.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.6 blocked shots in 10 games for Northwest Christian before being ruled academically ineligible. Kelley, who is taking classes at Lane CC "and trying to get the academic part completed," says he has not committed to the Beavers, though his interest is high. He would have to sign a financial-aid agreement this summer.
OSU has another big man on the way. Jack Wilson, a 7-foot, 260-pound prep junior in San Mateo, California, has committed to the Beavers. OSU coaches believe he can develop into a better player than UCLA's 7-foot Thomas Welsh.
• Portland State athletic director Val Cleary has begun talks with a group of potential candidates for the Vikings' vacant basketball head coaching job. But Cleary seems at least a couple of weeks away from hiring a replacement for Tyler Geving, who was fired after eight years on the job.
Among the candidates who have spoken with Cleary: Chico State's Greg Clink and Northwest Christian's Luke Jackson.
Clink, 46, coached the Wildcats to a 26-8 record and reached the NCAA Division II Elite Eight this season. He owns a record of 177-95 over nine seasons. Chico State is Clink's alma mater — as it is Cleary's.
Jackson, 35, coached Northwest Christian to a 25-6 record this season. Jackson is 88-38 in four seasons with the Beacons, taking them to the NAIA Division II national tournament three times in four years. He spoke with Cleary at length Friday night.
"I've been coveting the Portland State job for a few years," says Jackson, the former Oregon standout who played four seasons in the NBA. "I really want that job. It could turn into something really special pretty quick. I think I could get the school and the community pretty excited about it."
Among others who should draw interest from the Vikings: Former Oregon State, Washington and University of Portland assistant coach Jim Shaw, now head coach at Western Oregon, and Orlando Magic assistant coach David Adelman, son of Rick Adelman and in his sixth year as an NBA assistant.
• Terry Porter's second University of Portland team will have a decidedly different look.
Only five players will return from the Pilots team that went 11-22, 2-16 in West Coast Conference play this season: guards Rashad Jackson and D'Marques Tyson, forward Gabe Taylor and centers Philipp Hartwich and Joseph Smoyer.
Porter also returns a pair of players who practiced with the Pilots this season but didn't play in games — his sons, guards Franklin and Malcolm. Franklin, a transfer from Saint Mary's, will be a sophomore. Malcolm, who played at Jesuit High last year, will be a redshirt freshman.
Four underclassmen, including the second-leading scorer, sophomore guard Jazz Johnson, are leaving the program.
"That's a decision Jazz made," Porter says. "He wanted to play somewhere else. He was great for us. It was great to have him part of our team. I wish him the very best."
A sophomore guard who wound up starting at the end of the season, walk-on Xavier Hallinan from Central Catholic, is transferring to NCAA Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills.
The Pilots have four players coming in who have signed letters-of-intent: Tahirou Diabate, 6-10, 215-pound forward from Japan; Taki Fahrensohn, 6-5 guard from New Zealand; JoJo Walker, 6-1 guard from Santa Maria, California, and Austin Stone, a 6-9 JC transfer from South Carolina Salkehatchie.
Diabate, who grew up in Mali and moved to Japan in 2014, once scored 101 points in a single game. Porter watched him work out with Pilot players during a recruiting visit.
"He has some good skills," Porter says. "He has a great motor, a good body and a knack for scoring and rebounding."
Stone is a power forward who, Porter says, "is physical and has the ability to shoot a little bit. He should help us right away."
Fahrensohn "has shown the ability to do a lot of things offensively," Porter says. "He has good range and ball-handling skills. He still has to grow into his body a little bit, but he has good skills from the perimeter."
Walker averaged 23.4 points and 7.7 assists as a prep senior. He should be in the mix to start right away at point guard.
"JoJo plays at both ends of the floor," Porter says. 'He's very good with the ball, very good at penetrating. I love the way he competes and plays really hard."
The Pilots could add three more players during the April 12 late signing date. Porter is after a post player, a big win player and a combination guard. They'll all take visits to The Bluff — two of them next weekend.
• No surprise Washington released Michael Porter Jr. from his letter-of-intent to play for the Huskies. The 6-9 prep senior — who earned Naismith National Player of the Year honors this season playing for Brandon Roy at Seattle's Nathan Hale High — committed to UW last summer, two months after coach Lorenzo Romar hired Porter's father, Michael Porter Sr., as an assistant coach.
Romar was fired last week, meaning Porter Sr. was out of a job. Then came news that Porter Sr. was hired as an assistant by new Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin, the former California coach. A day later, 6-9 Porter Jr. was a member of the Tigers' program.
It's likely that the younger brother of Porter Jr., 6-9 Jontay Porter, will follow suit. Jontay Porter, who had verbally committed to Washington, could graduate from high school early and join his brother at Missouri next season.
It's a sorry state of affairs when a college coach can hire an assistant solely to get his son, or sons, to play for him. By all accounts, Michael Porter Sr. did little coaching or recruiting for the Huskies this season. It's nothing the NCAA can legislate against. But it still reeks.