Just when you thought the class of 2019 recruiting mill was finished, Oregon said not so fast.
The Ducks got a huge summer pickup on Thursday when 2020 five-star big man N’Faly Dante announced that he’s not only reclassifying to 2019, but also has chosen Oregon over Kentucky.
Dante was the No. 12 overall ranked player in the 2020 class and the No. 3 center. The 6’11” big man attended Sunrise Christian (Kansas) Academy and has had a big summer, most recently being named MVP of the 2019 Peach Jam Classic after posting 22 points and 18 rebounds in the final.
Dante should give the Ducks an immediate boost on the defensive end and on the boards, and he’ll be a scoring presence inside the paint. With a body that already looks ready for the rigors of the college level, he could make a fairly seamless transition even despite the reclassification.
Dante becomes the highest-ranked player of Oregon’s 2019 class and joins fellow five-star CJ Walker, four-star big man Chandler Lawson, three-star forward Lök Wur and juco guard Chris Duarte. The Ducks also added immediately eligible New Mexico guard Anthony Mathis and UNLV wing Shakur Juiston, while four-star center commit Isaac Johnson will serve a two-year church mission before joining the team.
While sophomore Francis Okoro is likely still the favorite to open the season as Oregon’s starting center, Dante should have plenty of opportunity down low after the departures of Kenny Wooten and Paul White. The Ducks showed off their lineup versatility last year during a late-season run that culminated in an unlikely trip to the Sweet 16, often starting four players who were 6’9” to surround 6’2” point guard Payton Pritchard.
Pritchard is back for his senior year to once again lead the Oregon offense, and sophomore guard Will Richardson returns as well. With a plethora of new faces, the Ducks will hope to figure out how to gel and learn Dana Altman’s system quicker than they did in 2018–19, when they didn’t round into form until February. After seeing the damage Oregon did last March, when it won the Pac-12 tournament and then gave eventual champion Virginia all it could handle, it wouldn’t be wise to count Altman’s team out even if it does take time to come together again.