The inaugural men's National Championship in 1939 was won by the Oregon Webfoots. They weren't the ducks yet, and no, the Webfoot name wasn't a reference to one. They were named after a group of fishermen from Massachusetts who had been heroes during the Revolutionary War, and then settled in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. But the basketball team wasn't always called the Webfoots anyway. They were nicknamed the Tall Firs because they had a 6-8 center and a remarkable five players taller than 6-2.
Now they're seeing a return of the Tall Firs, in size, if not in talent.
Last year they added 6-11 Tony Woods (via Wake Forest and JUCO) who established a new Oregon record for blocked shots. And now it appears that Eugene will be the destination for 6-11 JUCO center Waverly Austin. That is, if they can get him into school.
Austin was denied entry at South Florida due to some of his credits being unacceptable. He was also denied entry to USF out of high school.
But Oregon starts later than most schools, with their fall semester kicking off in late September. So they have a few weeks to get this worked out.
Austin was rated the No. 5 JUCO player in the nation by JucoRecruiting.com.
I'm not sure that relying on other team's cast-offs is a sustainable way to recruit, but that's the path the Oregon has chosen. Getting Austin into school will trigger some sort of investigation as to why he could get into Oregon but not South Florida. And of course Woods has a dubious history which includes pleading guilty to breaking his girlfriend's back. But talent is talent, and upgrading it is the only way to elevate a program. In theory, winning should alleviate the need to take chances on intangibles.
Regardless, it is what it is, so what's next?
The Ducks will have the "Tall" part in place, so when is the winning going to follow? They haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2008.
In all honesty, it shouldn't be long. There's no reason Oregon shouldn't be the dominant program in the northwest. They're loaded with cash. They have state-of-the-art facilities. And the State produces talent out of proportion with their population. Last year's team went 13-5 in the Pac-12, though they beat no one of significance in out-of-conference play. They did graduate three seniors, but this team still has some talent. In addition to Austin, they also landed Devon Branch, who was the No. 6 JUCO recruit, and Dominic Artis, the consensus No. 56 recruit in the nation. They also return EJ Singler, who started every game, and sixth man Carlos Emory.
Who knows? Maybe this second attempt at the Tall Firs will be the spark they need.