(UPDATE: After the news broke on Wednesday night that Kasongo had picked the Ducks over UConn, the big man tweeted out the following:
Maybe Kasongo isn’t committed to Oregon after all. Stay tuned.)
At the conclusion of the 2013-14 season the Oregon Ducks will lose three front court upperclassmen in Richard Amardi, Waverly Austin and Mike Moser. This fact means that the Ducks, who would return Ben Carter and Jordan Bell (and Arik Armstead, who’s a member of the Ducks’ football team), needed to land some more interior muscle for its 2014 recruiting class.
On Wednesday evening head coach Dana Altman received a verbal commitment from 6-foot-9 power forward Ray Kasongo, who chose the Ducks over UConn according to multiple outlets. UConn, which received a commitment from Buford, Ga. power forward Rakim Lubin on Monday, was looking to land a second 2014 power forward within a three-day span.
Kasongo joins point guard Casey Benson and wing Dwayne Benjamin in Oregon’s 2014 class. A native of Canada, Kasongo currently attends Phase 1 Academy in Phoenix and has the athletic ability needed to be an impact player for the Ducks when he arrives on campus next summer.
And that’s important given the aforementioned roster issues for the Ducks at the end of this season. Bell has yet to play a college game, and Carter posted averages of 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. Carter played an average of just 10.4 minutes per game in 2012-13, a number that’s likely to rise given the fact that Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods are no longer a part of the front court rotation.
But it should be noted that under Altman the Ducks have enjoyed success when it comes to recruiting transfers, and given the rising number of players who seek “greener pastures” thanks to possibilities such as the graduate student waiver many have taken advantage of there may be additional options from which to choose next spring.
With returnees Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson being sophomores, Houston transfer Joseph Young being a junior (either this season or next, depending upon the result of his request to be granted immediate eligibility) and junior college transfers Elgin Cook and Jalil Abdul-Bassit being juniors as well, the Oregon Ducks don’t lack for depth on the perimeter.
Dana Altman’s squad got even deeper on the perimeter Sunday, as Mount San Jacinto (Calif.) College wing Dwayne Benjamin verbally committed to the Pac-12 school. Benjamin, who joins point guard Casey Benson in Oregon’s 2014 class, took his official visit to Oregon this weekend.
Benjamin started 28 of their 31 games he played in last season, posting averages of 15.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Benjamin shot 46.7% from the floor for Mount San Jacinto, which finished the 2012-13 season with a 21-11 record. Benjamin’s season high in points was 29, a total he reached in two separate contests, and he posted seven double-doubles as a freshman. One of Benjamin’s best outings came in the second-to-last game of the season, as he tallied 28 points and ten rebounds in an 83-78 win over Ventura JC.
As noted above Benjamin joins a perimeter attack that has depth, with Artis, Dotson and Young in line to lead the way in 2014. Oregon loses UNLV transfer Mike Moser, whose versatility can be an asset when healthy (Moser averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in 2011-12), and Benjamin has the look of a player who can help the Ducks in a similar fashion.
In a year that has been defined early on in part by the success of 12-seeds, Oregon stands out. Oregon stands out because, well, it should not have been a 12-seed.
The Ducks came into this NCAA tournament after winning the Pac-12 tournament and finishing just one game out of first place in the regular season conference standings. They now move on to the Sweet 16 after a 74-57 win over 4-seed Saint Louis at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
Oregon picked apart a Saint Louis defense that had been the staple of a team that won both the A-10 regular season and tournament championships. The Billikens averaged just over 57 point per game allowed this season, but a Damyean Dotson three gave the Ducks 58 points still with 8:11 left to play.
Part of the seeding can certainly be explained by the fact that freshman point guard Dominic Artis sat out a portion of the Pac-12 schedule with a foot injury. Turnovers exploded for the Ducks during that period, but they weathered the storm and won the tournament title. But what does that mean?
The interesting part of Oregon having drawn a 12-seed, though, is that it might have been beneficial for the Ducks. What higher seed could they have gotten, perhaps where Colorado State was as an 8-seed? That would have meant that Oregon would have had to get through Missouri and a ferocious Louisville pressing defense.
Instead, they got a solid matchup with Oklahoma State, then a Saint Louis team that they could work with by being efficient and hitting shots on the offensive end. It now lands them in the Sweet 16, but the inevitable has been put off long enough. No. 1 Louisville is up next. Get ready for a battle for the right to move on to the Elite Eight. Or, if Oregon can’t control the ball, another impressive showing from the Cardinals.
We’ll have to wait and see.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_