Report: Oregon men's basketball emerges as frontrunner for Bronny James
Even before the college football season kicks off its fall campaign, the University of Oregon men's basketball program is wrestling away some of the spotlight.
According to an expert pick made Tuesday, Aug. 16, by recruiting site On3 Sports, Bronny James — the son of NBA legend LeBron James — could be coming to Eugene.
With UCLA and USC leaving the Pac-12 in 2024, the Ducks' future in that league is still very much up in the air. Still, whether it is conference realignment or ever-evolving NIL guidelines, the changing landscape of college sports has not kept head coach Dana Altman off the recruiting trail.
Altman and the Ducks have made waves over the past weeks, signing five-star power forward Kwame Evans (Montverde Academy; Montverde, Florida) and receiving a renewed commitment from five-star wing and former Jefferson High standout Mookie Cook (Compass Prep; Chandler, Arizona). Cook, Evans and West Linn point guard Jackson Shelstad — a four-star recruit in his own right — make up the three-headed monster that is Oregon's current 2023 recruiting class.
"It's obviously not affecting our recruiting," Altman said during media availability Tuesday, referring to the shifting sands in the Pac-12. "As long as it's not affecting the players I can get and work with, what league we're in, where we're playing — I'm not going to make that decision, so I don't worry about it."
Earlier Tuesday, the first strong hints dropped about a fourth prized recruit who may be coming to town.
Jamie Shaw, a national recruiting analyst for On3 Sports, submitted an 'expert pick' on the website and gave Oregon a 50% chance of landing James. A 6-foot-3 combo guard out of Sierra Canyon High School in Los Angeles, James is currently the No. 44 prospect in the On3 Composite rankings, which take an average of recruiting grades from On3, ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals.
Last week, ESPN reporter Paul Biancardi named five schools that were said to be in the running for James, including Oregon, Ohio State, USC, UCLA and Michigan. In Tuesday's On3 report, however, Shaw noted that "Michigan and UCLA were not actively recruiting James." As such, Shaw listed the Ducks, Buckeyes and Trojans as the top three choices for where James might end up, with Oregon leading the pack.
Of course, there is still plenty of time for circumstances to change. In fact, LeBron James took to Twitter on Tuesday with that very reminder.
"He hasn't taken [one] visit yet and has only had a few calls with coaches and universities," wrote the Los Angeles Lakers star on his son's recruitment, in response to a tweet by Bleacher Report referencing the On3 prediction. "When Bronny makes his choice you'll hear it from him."
Despite LeBron James pushing back on the rumor mill, there is a longstanding connection between the University of Oregon and the NBA player — specifically, that each entity is inextricably tied to Nike. Since 2003, when an 18-year-old James inked a $90 million deal with the brand, he has been one of its top ambassadors. Nike co-founder Phil Knight, meanwhile, is an Oregon alumnus who has donated hundreds of millions of dollars toward improving athletic facilities at the school.
As for other connections to Oregon, it was announced earlier in the summer that Cook would play a young version of LeBron James in the upcoming film 'Shooting Stars.' In April, when Cook originally committed to the Ducks, the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player took to social media to congratulate the Compass Prep prospect.
While this latest bit of news around the Oregon men's basketball team is still just hearsay, it is noteworthy to see the Ducks emerge as a serious contender for such a high-profile player.
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