Oregon Ducks

Will "freak athlete" Troy Dye return for his senior season?

Will "freak athlete" Troy Dye return for his senior season?

Since the minute linebacker Troy Dye arrived in Eugene, Oregon, he’s disrupted backfields and locked down in coverage but has his reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses come to an end?

Dye has a major decision to make and a looming Jan. 14 deadline; forgo his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2019 NFL draft or return for his senior season at Oregon?

“He’s a great linebacker. We haven’t had a linebacker like him in awhile,” senior defensive end Jalen Jelks said. “When he doesn’t make a play, he thinks about it the rest of the game and then gets after it more… It’s intense.”

Jelks is correct. The last UO linebacker to throw up similar statistics to Dye was Michael Clay (linebacker 2009-2012). Dye is the first Duck with 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since Clay (2011-12).

Dye’s domination as a Duck etched him into the history books; the junior is the 15th player in program history to reach 300 career tackles, earning the Oregon defensive player of the year honor as a freshman, sophomore and junior. 

But will Oregon’s leading tackler for three-straight seasons play his last game in a Duck uniform in the Redbox Bowl on December 31st?

Dye has not indicated his plans for the 2019 season, yet. Although, he did send this tweet after the Ducks landed the top rated high school player in the country, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.

So, does that indicate Dye was planning on going to the NFL before the Ducks beat out Alabama, Florida State and Florida to win the Thibodeaux lottery?

Adding the 6'5'' 235-pound elite pass rusher with scary speed and agility to the Oregon roster certainly didn’t hurt the Ducks’ chances at getting Dye back for another season.

UO coach Mario Cristobal told Dye to lay off the cryptic tweets, but plans on sitting down with him and his family to help discuss the benefits and disadvantages of waiting or declaring for the NFL this season.

“I think everybody has a decision to make and some make more sense than others and the facts will certainly at least points you in the right direction,” Cristobal said.

Oregon requested scouting reports from the NFL advisory committee for a number of draft eligible juniors including: quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Dillon Mitchell and Dye. Herbert elected to stay for his senior season and Mitchell is headed to the NFL. 

“Troy is special because he can do more than just make tackles,” nose tackle Jordon Scott said. “He can cover, he can rush the passer, he can fill a gap… Overall, he has control of our defense and that’s one thing that is intangible."

Dye is gaining traction in NFL draft circles, scouting reports often listing him as a “freak athlete” with elite agility and lateral quickness that has the ability to power through linemen and can get skinny to shoot multiple gaps.

The concerns around Dye revolve around his thin, tall frame. At 6-foot-3, 224-pounds, Scouts call out his build and worry that he’ll get shoved around against NFL blockers.

Draft network named Dye as one of the top five draft eligible Pac-12 players that would benefit by playing another year at the college level and bulking up in the weight room.

Dye’s draft projection ranges from as high as the fourth round to undrafted.

A promising NFL talent and a proven college star, Dye has 10 days to decide if he will continue to pester Pac-12 backfields for another season or not.

Oregon guard Payton Pritchard nabs another Pac-12 Player of the Week honor

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USA Today Images

Oregon guard Payton Pritchard nabs another Pac-12 Player of the Week honor

We’re honestly running out of ways to describe how good of a basketball player Payton Pritchard is.

The Oregon men’s basketball guard has been named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time this season. The news comes just one week after Pritchard received Naismith Men’s Player of the Week honors for a third time this season. 

Pritchard continued to build upon his National Player of the Year campaign this week, averaging 28 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists as Oregon split its road trip in the desert at Arizona State and Arizona.

The Ducks fell to ASU 77-72 in Tempe earlier in the week. Pritchard fouled out after scoring 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting and 4-of-10 from behind the arc.

The Oregon senior point guard bounced back with a career-high 38 points in the Ducks 73-72 overtime victory over Arizona on Saturday. It was a statement win for the Ducks, who remain in the hunt for the Pac-12 Championship crown. For Pritchard, it may have solidified his Pac-12 Player of the Year nod. 

Arizona coach Sean Miller was astounded by Pritchard’s standout performance, calling him Pac-12 Player of the Year, and he might just be right.

Pritchard currently leads the Pac-12 in scoring and assists with 20.1 points per game and 5.5 assists. The Ducks have now won five overtime games this season...could another clutch performance from Pritchard be on the horizon? The Ducks head back to Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday for a Civil War matchup vs. rivals Oregon State. Tip off is set for 8:00 p.m. in Eugene. 

FULL VIDEO Sabrina Ionescu speaks at Kobe and Gianna Bryant Memorial

FULL VIDEO Sabrina Ionescu speaks at Kobe and Gianna Bryant Memorial

It's been less than a month since Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others tragically passed away in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020. 

Less than two hours before Sabrina Ionescu and the Oregon Ducks were going to play then-No. 9 Oregon State on the road, both teams learned about the passing of Kobe and his daughter. The two teams shared a moment of silence shortly after.

The Ducks, especially Ionescu, had spent time with the Bryants and gotten close to in the past year. Kobe and Gianna attended multiple Ducks games when Oregon traveled to California.

Wearing Kobe's signature shoe with "Forever 24" written on the heels, Ionescu would play all 40 minutes of the Civil War and leave victorious to sweep the season series against Oregon State.

After the game, Sabrina dedicated the rest of the season to Kobe in a postgame interview with ESPN.

I mean, everything I do, I do it for him obviously. Really close friend and this season’s for him.

Staples Center hosted a public memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant on 2/24 in honor of Kobe and Gianna's basketball numbers of No. 2 and No 24.

At the memorial, Ionescu gave an emotional speech about how both of them had greatly affected her. She started off the speech detailing the first time she met them when they surprised the Ducks by sitting courtside when they played at USC. Ionescu thought the surprise was going to be "Nike sent us some new shoes or swag or something."

When Kobe, Gianna and two of her teammates entered the arena, "they sat courtside while [Sabrina's] jaw sat dropped." 

After the game, they visited the Ducks locker room and Kobe gave them advice she's never forgotten. 

He congratulated me on the win that day and our season up until that point, but then said, and I'll never forget, 'Don't shoot yourselves in the foot.' He meant don't settle. Keep grinding, Control what you can.

Ionescu also remembered watching Gianna smile in the locker room and that Sabrina had watched film on her: "She had a fadeaway better than mine." However, Ionescu knew that Gianna was more than just a basketball prodigy, she was the future of the women's game.

If I represented the present of the women's game, Gigi was the future and Kobe knew it. So we decided to build a future together.

Sabrina would work out twice with Gianna and Kobe over the summer.

"I loved watching how hard she worked and how much her teammates loved her, but also her own desire to be great. She always wanted to learn, to go to every game she could: college, NBA, WNBA. Kobe was helping her with that because he saw it in her. Just like he saw it in me.

"His vision for others is always bigger than what they imagine for themselves. His vision for me was way bigger than my own. More importantly, he didn't show up in my life and leave. He stayed. We kept in touch, always texting, calling, game visits. I'd drop a triple-double and have a text from him 'Another triple-double I see' with a flex emoji. Another game another text: 'Yo beast mode' or 'Easy money'. I felt some pressure early on in the season and he wrote to me 'Be you. It's been good enough and that will continue to be good enough.'"

Kobe would teach Sabrina his stepback to put her game over the top and helped her with her footwork, a Kobe specialty: "'Real sharpness comes without effort' he said. ...He was giving me the blueprint. He was giving Gigi the same blueprint."

Kobe reassured Sabrina that her drive to be the best was an asset, not a curse. 

He united us. He made it so that the outsiders who outworked everyone else, who were driven to be just a little bit different every single day, to make those around them, behind them and above them a little bit better every single day. And they weren't the exception. They were the rule.

Sabrina, the face of women's college basketball, is doing it not only for herself, but also for the women that come after her. 

I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates. Where being born female didn't mean being born behind. Where greatness wasn't divided by gender. 

Ionescu still texts Kobe despite his passing: "'Thank you for everything. The rest is for you. Rest easy my guy.' The last one I sent him said 'I miss you. May you rest in peace my dear friend.'" 

To close out her speech, Sabrina had an emotional plea to all those watching.

I ask each of you, every girldad, every human here with a voice, a platform, and a heart, to not let his sun set. Shine for us. For our sport where he once did. Invest in us with the same passion and drive and respect and love as he did his own daughter. In the end she was a sun just starting to rise and god did she glow. May their light forever shine. Kobe and Gigi I'll love you forever. Thank you.

Ionescu will travel to the Bay Area to play No. 4 Stanford tonight at 6:00 p.m. after the conclusion of the memorial.

You can watch the full interview embedded above.

Social media reacts to Sabrina Ionescu's tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘Rest easy my guy’

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NBCS Northwest

Social media reacts to Sabrina Ionescu's tribute to Kobe Bryant: ‘Rest easy my guy’

“Wake up, grind and get better." That was the message Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had for Sabrina Ionescu.

Now, the Oregon women’s basketball star is paying tribute to her mentor and his daughter Gianna, who were tragically killed in a helicopter accident last month.

At the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Ionescu eloquently spoke about why she idolized Bryant and how his daughter, Gigi, was the future of women’s sports.

Here’s a look at how social media reacted as Ionescu paid tribute to Kobe and Gigi in an arena filled with legends:

Ionescu will now catch a plane and head to Palo Alto to rejoin the Oregon women's basketball team. The No. 3 Ducks take on No. 4 Stanford at 6:00 p.m. 

What you need to know: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 Stanford (round two)

What you need to know: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 Stanford (round two)

Let’s rewind the clock back to week four of Pac-12 conference play. It was a Thursday night in Eugene, Oregon with the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal in town to battle the No. 6 seed Oregon Ducks. A nationally televised game with big national relevance. 

The Cardinal had the lead after one quarter, 17-13. And that was about it for Stanford. The Ducks outscored the Cardinal 74-38 the rest of the way behind Sabrina Ionescu’s 37 points.

A 32-point victory over the No. 3 team in the country, and the Ducks were rolling.

Since then, much has changed for both squads.

Stanford is without star freshman Haley Jones, who suffered a knee injury days later against the No. 8 Oregon State Beavers. She has yet to return to the court. However, 6-foot-3 forward Maya Dodson has returned from injury and proven to be an asset on both the offensive and defensive ends.

For the Ducks, they just seem to be getting better and better. Since their first meeting on Jan. 16, Oregon has played top opponents week after week: Twice against then-No. 7 Oregon State, at No. 4 UConn, No. 12 Arizona, No. 19 Arizona State and at No. 7 UCLA.

Their strength of schedule has only benefited the Ducks in terms of national ranking as well as preparation for whose next.

Could we be previewing the Pac-12 Tournament finals coming up in just a few short weeks in Las Vegas, Nevada? Possibly. But make no mistake, there’s no guarantee in this challenging conference. We do know one thing, it’s going to be a good one. 

Oregon (25-2, 14-1 Pac-12) and Stanford (24-3, 13-2 Pac-12) sit atop the Pac-12 conference standings at one and two. Oregon can clinch a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title with a win over the Cardinal.

Looking ahead, Stanford’s final weekend of conference play is a trip to No. 11 Arizona and No. 21 Arizona State. The Ducks will host the Washington schools. Advantage Oregon.

Here is what you need to know about the game tonight:

NUMBERS TO KNOW

POINTS PER GAME

Oregon - 85.9

Stanford - 75.9

SCORING MARGIN

Oregon - 28.8

Stanford - 16.7

REBOUNDS PER GAME

Oregon - 40.3

Stanford - 42.3

ASSISTS PER GAME

Oregon - 21.0

Stanford - 15.4

KEYS TO AN OREGON VICTORY

Contain Kiana Williams. This has probably been the best stretch Williams has played all season long. In their first meeting, Williams was the leading scorer for Stanford with 15 points. She loves to get out and run and push the pace. Against the Colorado Buffaloes last Sunday, she finished with 29 points including two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds that gave Stanford the victory.

A key to slowing her down is Minyon Moore, who has been heckling opposing guards all season long. Moore will have to do it again against Williams.

Take the crowd out early. A big advantage for Oregon in their first matchup was having the Matthew Knight Arena near-sellout crowd backing them up. It’s a different story when you’re the road team. The last time the Ducks were in Maples Pavilion, they won by 40 (88-48). Stanford may be looking for a bit of revenge in more ways than one.

How you do that? Oregon’s offense has been stellar lately with Erin Boley finding her outside shot. When opposing squads send double teams down low on Ruthy Hebard, Oregon and Boley need to capitalize with hitting three-pointers. Luckily for the Ducks, Boley has been on a tear lately hitting 15 three-pointers in their last two outings.

GAME INFORMATION

WHO: No. 3 Oregon at No. 4 Stanford 

WHEN: Monday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. (PT)

WHERE: Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, California.

TV: ESPN2

RADIO: Oregon Sports Network

Oregon WR Juwan Johnson confirms he's a physical specimen at NFL Combine

Oregon WR Juwan Johnson confirms he's a physical specimen at NFL Combine

Anyone who has seen Oregon wide receiver Juwan Johnson take the field before knows he’s a big dude.

At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Johnson is one of the largest wideouts at the NFL Combine this year and his measurables prove it.

According to the NFL Draft’s official Twitter, Johnson led all wide receivers in longest arms, longest wingspan and largest hands. 

Johnson transferred to Oregon from Penn State in 2019, but injuries derailed his Ducks career early on. He went on to appear in 10 of Oregon’s 14 games, catching 30 passes for 467 yards and four touchdowns. He helped lead the Ducks to a victory in the Rose Bowl. His 66 yards were the most of any player on either team.

Johnson's large body frame and ability to shield defenders makes him a valuable asset to scouts looking for bigger types at the wide receiver position.

While his onfield portion of the combine will likely gain attention, the bench press will be perhaps his most anticipated event. The receiver recently announced he’ll be using the NFL Combine bench press to raise donations for Uplifting Athletes, a charity that assists the rare disease community. He hopes to raise $2,000 by completing at least 14 reps during the bench press.

Johnson joins quarterback Justin Herbert, tight end Jacob Breeland, linebacker Troy Dye, as well as offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton, Jake Hanson and Shane Lemieux in one of the largest classes of draft hopefuls the Ducks have ever had participate in the NFL Combine.

Oregon men's basketball holds steady in latest AP Poll ranking

Oregon men's basketball holds steady in latest AP Poll ranking

It was a bittersweet weekend for Oregon men's basketball (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) after splitting another road trip in the Pac-12 conference, resulting in the Ducks staying put at No. 14 in the latest Associated Press rankings.

Joining the Ducks in the Top 25 from the Pac-12 Conference is the No. 21 Colorado Buffaloes, with Arizona State and Arizona being two of the first three teams left out of the rankings. 

Here's how the top ten shook out.

  1. Kansas (24-3)
  2. Baylor (24-2)
  3. Gonzaga (27-2)
  4. Dayton (25-2)
  5. San Diego State (26-1)
  6. Florida State (23-4)
  7. Duke (23-4)
  8. Kentucky (22-5)
  9. Maryland (22-5)
  10. Creighton (22-6)

Let's recap the weekend for Oregon.

@ Arizona State, LOSS 77-72

Tempe has cursed Oregon sports this academic school year. All three: football, women's basketball, and now men's basketball have fallen on the road to Arizona State. 

The Ducks got off to a slow start falling behind 12 points early. Oregon eventually tied the game at 54-all with 7:17 left in the game, but could never get over the hump. Pritchard finished with 18 points, 16 in the second half, but fouled out with 2:15 to go in the game and the Ducks down five. 

[Instant Analysis: No. 14 Oregon falls in the desert to Arizona State]

The loss set up a must-win game at Arizona, for the Ducks who were still in the hunt for a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. 

@ then-No. 24 Arizona, WIN 73-72 OT

Senior guard Payton Pritchard had the performance of the season, scoring a career-high 38 points in an overtime thriller in the desert. The Ducks got to the extra period after Arizona’s Josh Green missed two free throws with five seconds left. Then, Shakur Juiston scored all nine of the Ducks' points in overtime, including a game-winning layup with 1.4 seconds left after Will Richardson drew the defense. 

[Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard drops new career-high in OT win vs. Arizona]

The guard from West Linn may have wrapped up the Pac-12 Player of the Year Award with his gutsy performance, which helped the Ducks sweep the season series against the Wildcats. 

UP NEXT: The Ducks will host the Oregon State Beavers on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday in the second leg of the Civil War series.

Sabrina Ionescu pens letter to Oregon: ‘Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it’

Sabrina Ionescu pens letter to Oregon: ‘Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it’

Sabrina Ionescu could have chosen any day to write a letter to the Ducks community. 

But Monday, February 24 won’t go down as just any day for the Oregon women’s basketball star. It’s the day a public memorial will be held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were among nine killed in a tragic helicopter accident last month. 

Ionescu is expected to speak at the service before catching a flight north to rejoin her teammates in Palo Alto for a game against No. 4 Stanford. 

In a letter with The Players’ Tribune, Ionescu opened up about her decision to remain at Oregon to help build something special, and how without words, Kobe made it clear she had made the right decision. 

He saw the pressure that we were about to face this year as a privilege. A challenge to overcome. And the fact that it was scary to me at first?? He saw that as an opportunity. Harnessing your fear as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself — that’s Mamba Mentality 101. And I took it to heart.

Ionescu harnessed that Mamba Mentality this season with her Ducks team, who currently sit No. 3 in the women’s college basketball rankings. They’ve overcome a lot of challenges: shocking team USA, beating UConn and sweeping Oregon State. 

But no matter how the season finishes, Ionescu is proud of what she’s helped build at Oregon and the community who has rallied around her since the very beginning. 

It’s been a year I’ll remember forever, but it’s also been bittersweet. Because on one hand, I’m sitting here writing you this letter, Ducks Nation, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. I’m so proud of how we’ve met our expectations head-on, and contended for another Pac-12 title, and — even with this high-pressure target on our back — stayed right near the top of the polls all season long. I’m so proud of how we’ve put ourselves in the perfect position to reach our second straight Final Four, and beyond.

Ionescu will take the next step of her basketball journey without one of her biggest mentors, but she knows their two paths crossed for a reason. 

“Kobe always saw the bigger picture,” Ionsecu wrote. “That was clear with everything he did in his life — but to me it was especially clear with the way that he looked at and treated the game of women’s basketball. He didn’t see growing the game with girls as his hobby, or as some side project, or as a charity case. He saw it as a movement. And he didn’t get involved because he just wanted to be a fan of our movement. He got involved because he wanted to be a part of it.”

While the world mourns the loss of Bryant, Ionescu knows what Kobe and others have instilled in her is so much more than Mamba Mentality for girls, it’s Mamba Mentality, period. 

Oregon has a must-win game against No. 4 Stanford on Monday to clinch its third-straight Pac-12 title. If the Ducks come away victorious, Oregon will have the top seed heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. 

As Ionescu knows, there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

“Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it.”

NFL Combine profile: Oregon QB Justin Herbert

NFL Combine profile: Oregon QB Justin Herbert

Justin Herbert

Position: Quarterback
Year: Senior 
Hometown: Eugene, Oregon

Measurables: 

Height: 6’6 2/8" 

Weight: 236 pounds

Hand: 10"

Overview

When quarterback Justin Herbert chose to forgo the NFL Draft in 2019 and return to Oregon for his senior year: his aspirations were clear. He had unfinished business with the Ducks.

One year later, Herbert is one of the premier quarterbacks in the illustrious 2020 NFL Draft class and is coming off a stellar finish to his four years with the Ducks. The Eugene native led Oregon to a 12-2 record, a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory. The pre-draft process is off to a solid start for the 6-foot-6, 225 pound quarterback, who was named Senior Bowl MVP.

Herbert has all the tools needed to become a franchise quarterback, but presents some consistency issues that we will talk about below that bring concern to NFL scouts.

Draft projections

Most mock drafts have Herbert as the third quarterback to be selected in the NFL draft class. Pro Football Focus, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, Sporting News, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson all believe Herbert will be selected with the No. 6 overall pick held by the Los Angeles Chargers.

NFL comparison:

Andrew Luck and John Elway

Strengths

- Protypical size
- High football IQ (4.01 GPA)
- Big time arm with quick release
- Pocket presence
- Ability to use his legs

Weaknesses

- Doesn’t keep his eyes up to extend plays
- Inaccurate throws due to improper setting of feet
- Oregon’s first-read offense limited the amount of progressions to one side of the field for Herbert

Did Payton Pritchard just lock up the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Did Payton Pritchard just lock up the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Payton Pritchard is on another level this season.

The Portland-native from West Linn High School is averaging 20.1 points 5.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds in his senior season for the Ducks.

On Saturday against the Arizona Wildcats, Pritchard carried the Ducks in regulation dropping a new career-high 38 points in Tucson. He shot 12-for-27 from the field, 6-for-14 from 3-PT range, a perfect 8-for-8 from the FT line as well as dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds.

It was a miraculous performance.

But it begged the question: did this performance lock Pritchard in for the Pac-12 Player of the Year award?

Many on social media think so...

Another name in Pac-12 POY contention is Arizona State's Remy Martin, who is averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds this season for the first place Sun Devils. 

The conference awards are released before the Pac-12 Tournament.