When you think of historic basketball programs on the west coast, people tend to think of UCLA, but it was actually Oregon that won the first-ever NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It would take nearly 80 years for the Ducks to get back to the Final Four, but along the way, there have been some great players that nearly got them there. Throughout all of Oregon basketball history, here are the five best players to ever wear the Ducks uniform:
5. Terrell Brandon
Portland native Terrell Brandon spent just two seasons at Oregon but had a massive impact on the basketball program. Brandon was a first-team All-Pac-10 member in both of his seasons and the conference’s Player of the Year in 1991. In that season, Brandon set the school record for most points in a season with 745.
Post-Oregon Days: Brandon left the Ducks after his sophomore season to declare for the NBA Draft and was selected 11th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though he’d run into injury problems in the NBA, Brandon was a two-time NBA All-Star in 1996 and 1997 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Overall he averaged 13.8 points and 6.1 assists per game in his 11-year career.
4. Luke Ridnour
A high school All-American from Blaine, Washington, Luke Ridnour made an immediate impact in his freshman season, averaging 7.4 points per game en route to being the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year. By the time he was a junior, Ridnour was averaging nearly 20 points per game and was named the Pac-10 Player of the Year to go along with two first-team All-Pac-10 honors.
Post-Oregon Days: Ridnour declared for the NBA Draft following his impressive junior season and was the 14th overall selection in 2003 by the Seattle SuperSonics. Ridnour spent more than a decade in the NBA, averaging 9.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game while playing for five different franchises, finishing in 2015 with the Orlando Magic.
3. Payton Pritchard
The first player on the list to put in a full four seasons with Oregon, Payton Pritchard from West Linn, Oregon was a starter in all four of those years. Pritchard was one of the top players in the nation by his senior season when he was averaging 20.5 points and 5.5 assists per game. Pritchard is fourth in program history in scoring and won the Lute Olson Award, Bob Cousy Award and was All-Pac-12 and All-American in his final year.
Post-Oregon Days: Pritchard was the 26th overall selection by the Boston Celtics in the 2020 NBA Draft and received significant playing time in his first season, averaging 7.7 points per game. Though he’d see reduced time in his second year, Pritchard remains a member of the Celtics rotation as a role player.
2. Luke Jackson
Creswell native Luke Jackson stayed in-state for his college career where he played four seasons, including a senior campaign with 21.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Jackson was an All-American in 2004 and two-time First-Team All-Pac-10 with 1,970 career points.
Post-Oregon Days: There were big things expected for Jackson as he skipped his senior season for the NBA and was drafted 10th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, he spent just two seasons with the team before wrapping up his NBA career in 2008 with short stints for the Clippers, Raptors, and Heat. Jackson played just 73 games in the NBA before moving his professional career to Europe.
1. Ron Lee
The top player on the list is Ron Lee, who started all four seasons and is the program record holder for most points scored at 2.085. Lee averaged over 18 points per game in all four of his seasons with Oregon and was named First-Team All-Pac-8 in each one. In 1976, he was recognized as the conference’s Player of the Year.
Post-Oregon Days: Just like Jackson, Lee was a 10th overall selection as the Phoenix Suns drafted him in 1976. Lee played for Phoenix for just a couple of seasons, though, and spent time with the Jazz, Hawks, and Pistons before his NBA career ended in 1982. He finished with 7.3 points and 3.8 assists per game while leading the NBA in steals during the 1977-78 season before heading to Europe for the rest of his pro days.