‘We’re still the University of Oregon;’ Dana Altman breaks down No. 7 ranked 2023 recruiting class

With the No. 7 ranked recruiting class in the nation putting pen to paper on Wednesday, Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman was free to discuss the additions that his team made to the roster this week, and what the incoming players — 5-star KJ Evans, 5-star Mookie Cook, and 4-star Jackson Shelstad — would offer to the team.

With Cook and Shelstad growing up in Oregon, Altman has been recruiting them for a long time, and was finally able to make the addition official this week. As for Evans, one of the top-ranked players in the nation, it was a signing that has been in the works for a couple of years.

When talking to the media on Thursday about the class, Altman broke down what he liked about each player and a little bit about how the recruitment for each one went. He also broke down some of the new recruiting landscape, touching on the impact that NIL has.

Here is everything Altman had to say about recruiting on Thursday:

Home Grown Kids

Question: Initial thoughts on the signings that were made yesterday?

Altman: “Well, really excited. Jackson and Mookie because they’re here in the state, we’ve known for a long time and you know, they’ve been coming to our camps since they were in junior high. So those two guys have been a long time coming. I’m really excited about both both guys that want to be at the University of Oregon and I think they both have tremendous upside. Jackson is someone who’s in the gym all the time really has improved shooting and ball handling has always been good. So, a good decision maker, a willing passer. He’s gonna make everybody around him better. Mookie’s a fantastic athlete. You know, he needs to continue to develop the skill level but I really liked the progress he’s made, like that he’ll continue to make.

Kwame 'KJ' Evans

Altman: “KJ is someone who’s been on our radar for a couple of years and I really love his skill level. He’s really got great basketball savvy for a guy his size, can shoot the three, really good passer. As he gets stronger, you know, I think you’ll really see him even make more plays. But all three guys, you know, we’re looking forward to, you know, joining our program. And you know, the transition to college is always different for everybody. But all three of those guys are very talented.”

Staff Turnover

Question: There has been some turnover with the coaching staff recently. What does that say about your program still being able to recruit at such a high level?

Altman: “We’re still at the University of Oregon. Like I said, I’ve been on Mookie and Jackson forever. So, you know, when you get players like that in your state, you know, it’s really good to keep them home. When I first got here, Garrett Sim and EJ Singler, you know, just man, were they really good for our program. Obviously had a really good career. So, uh, no, I’m pretty excited, about those two guys. And then KJ, you know, that was a long process. But, you know, I’ve always liked his basketball savvy and skill.”

Mookie's Recruiting Process

Question: What was the process like with Mookie Cook, having him commit, de-commit, and then come back into the fold once again?

Altman: “I don’t ever really take that as an insult or anything. I mean, guys, young guys, you know, have a lot thrown at them. I just kept telling him ‘we want you here if this is where you want to be,’ you know. I continue to maintain a young man can’t be successful unless he really wants to be here. We continued to recruit him, didn’t change anything. And he told us right away you know, ‘I’m de-committing, but I still may come.’ I said that’s fine, think about it. If this is the right spot for you great. If you decide, your parents decide it’s not, you know, we understand. I’ve been told no a lot more than I’ve been told yes. So you know, again, those guys want to be here and I really felt even when he de-committed that, you know, when he did some soul searching he’d come back. You know, he’s wanted to be here for a long time. He’s told me that, he and Jackson never played hard to get, you know. They always said, you know, ‘Coach I’ve always wanted to be here, I’ve watched you guys for a long time, and always wanted to be at Oregon.’ So I still felt pretty comfortable that we might still get him.”

'Shooting Stars'

Question: Has filming for Mookie’s movie wrapped up, and if so have you seen any of it yet?

Altman: “No, I don’t care to. That was all done last spring, from what I understand. I think his movie career is being put on hold for a while here.”

Jackson Shelstad Comparisons

Question: Some early comparisons have been made between Jackson Shelstad and Payton Pritchard. What do you make of those?

Altman: “Well, you know, they’re each their own guy. There’s no doubt about that. But yeah, they both are tremendous workers. They love to be in the gym. So you know, Jackson’s a different player than Payton you know, and he’ll make his own work. But the one thing that I loved is, you know, getting up in the morning go watching him work out at 6:30 in the morning, and it’s an early morning, but the fact that he was there doing it every day, just like Peyton did it, that excites me about a ballplayer you know, somebody wants to get up and work. And so, you know, like I said, he’s a different player than Payton, he’s gonna make his own mark. But the one thing they do have in common is they love ball. They love to be in the gym.”

Keeping Talent Home

Question: What do you make of your team’s ability to keep some of the best talent in-state recently?

Altman: “Well, you know, it’s not always a fit depending on the year you know. We’ve had some other good players in the state that you know, just because of the makeup of our roster, you know weren’t a good fit at the time. I think it’s a credit to our whole athletic department. You know, that the brand, the profile, wherever you want to say of our athletic department, you know, helps us to keep young man at home. Young ladies at home. You know, it’s always good when you get guys that grow up wanting to be Ducks. I feel like that’s, they’re in it for the long haul to go through the ups and downs. You know, nobody’s career goes like that. It is ups and downs, ups and downs. When a guy grows up around the program, they have a tendency to be invested.”

More 2023 Additions

Question: Do you have any feeling about whether or not you will have more signings in the 2023 class this spring?

Altman: “I have no idea, I wish I knew. You know, a couple of guys have COVID decisions they can make, you know the transfer portal, you know, like I said it’s a different game. You really don’t know who’s in it. So you got to stay flexible. You know, you got to do some type of recruiting every day. You know, just kind of protect yourself. But I don’t know how many guys we’ll have back, I don’t know how the season will go. And guys have a lot more opportunities, a lot more choices now than they ever had. They don’t have to sit out, you know. People recruiting your guys, you know, you gotta re-recruit your guys. So it’s a different landscape than it was. But to answer your question on how many we’ll have available in the spring, sitting here on November 10, I really have no idea.”


Question: Do you think that the prospect of NIL deals is keeping some players in college rather than them going off to pursue other opportunities?

Altman: “That seems to be the case, you know, with some of the other programs around the country. You know, I would hope they look at all their opportunities. You know, the G-League doesn’t pay very well at all and overseas opportunities, you know, sometimes are not the right fit for young men. So, you know, I think a lot of young men are looking at those opportunities to stay, develop one more year. Make sure they finish their degree, maybe work on a master’s degree. And financially, you know, do really well because you’re still on full-ride scholarship and you’re getting a little NIL money, that’s… I mean you go out in the working world and we all know those expenses pile up pretty quick, and when you’re on a full ride, you know it takes away all those expenses. So, anyway, it hasn’t affected us yet but you know if guys want to stay here, want to finish their degrees, want to work on a master’s degree, whatever the case may be, it would sure be interesting to look at those possibilities.”

Jackson Shelstad: Football Player

Question: What did you make of Jackson’s decision to play football during his last year of high school? Did you sign off on that?

Altman: “He called and said he wanted to play football his senior year. I said ‘hey, if that’s something you want to do, you get one senior year.’ ‘I want to win a state championship with my teammates and my friends.’ You know, I don’t know if they’re asking our permission or just telling us but you know, I wasn’t going to stop it. I said you get one senior year, make the best of it. You know, you get one opportunity to go to college, do everything you can. So no, I have no problems at all. Now they got three games, you know, yet to play. I hope they are successful, and then he moves on to basketball. You love the guys who want to compete. You know, Jackson wants to compete. So I have no problem with that at all.”

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire