Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks basketball programs navigate through recruiting challenges during pandemic

Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks were a favorite to win the Women’s Basketball National Championship last season with their captain Sabrina Ionescu.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and with it, the NCAA tournament was canceled.

Now as the Ducks get prepared for the 2020-21 season without Ionescu, Oregon head coach Kelly Graves is facing a big challenge that will impact his team long-term:

Recruiting in a pandemic.

“I think the recruiting has been a little bit difficult for us,” Graves told NBCSNW’s Jordan Kent. “We’re the type of program that -- we’re very people-oriented and you can get a real family feel when you get on campus... We haven’t been able to get recruits on campus because of the NCAA regulations.”

It makes sense given Oregon’s athletics facilities that the Ducks programs could be losing out on recruits.

Any recruit that is a Nike fan will easily fall in love with the campus in Eugene.

Now as the Ducks get set for the NCAA’s basketball season start date of Nov. 25, Gaves admitted that they didn’t land a handful of future recruits.

I think we’ve lost some of the recruits in the 2021 class and even in the ’22 because they weren’t able to come visit us. I think once you’re here, you get it. You see what it’s about.

Kelly Graves

“You can only do some much on a Zoom call,” Graves said with a smile. “I Facetime a lot.”

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Graves also joked, “my left hand, my left arm gets tired because I’ll call these kids and I’ll walk them around the facility, showing them and you do four, or five of those in one day and my arm's hurting.”


Along with strengthening his left arm, Graves is also still confident that the Ducks program will be strong as well in the coming years.

It’s been a challenge. Everybody’s kind of going through the same thing, so we’ve got to make the most of it and do the best we can.

Kelly Graves on recruiting during the pandemic 

As for the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team, head coach Dana Altman has still found a way to land some big-time players.

According to 24/7 Sports, the Ducks rank 8th in the top recruiting classes for 2021.

Oregon’s high ranking of the '21 recruiting class is in big thanks to landing these three big names: 

  • Five-star big man Nathan Bittle(ESPN’s No. 8 overall prospect)
  • Small forward Johnathan Lawson(ESPN’s No. 47 overall prospect)
  • Center Franck Kepnang(ESPN’s No. 22 overall prospect)

Lawson put Oregon’s class to No. 30 nationally, while Kepnang pushed them to No. 8, according to 247Sports.

Coach Graves gave his comrade major props for such accomplishments.

Coach Altman has shown that you can get great ‘21s even in a pandemic. They pulled in a couple of top 20s I think just this past week. So no excuses on our end. We’ll keep it going.

No excuses.

That’s how we know both the women’s and men’s college hoops programs in Eugene will be exciting to watch this season and beyond.