The dismissal of three Oregon basketball players last week following their alleged sexual assault leaves the Ducks with just four scholarship players, two junior college transfers and three high school recruits.
Anchoring the latter group is four-star recruit JaQuan Lyle. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard from Huntington Prep said he will come to Eugene this summer and hasn’t wavered despite everything that has circulated since last week.
The incoming freshman spoke with the Emerald Thursday about the recruiting process, why he chose Oregon, his reaction to the latest events, his relationship with the coaches, Damyean Dotson and his overall outlook going forward.
After you decommited from Louisville, what made Oregon the best fit?
“When I first decommited from Louisville, Oregon was the first school to jump on me quick. Me and Coach Altman built a relationship from then on. And out of all the head coaches recruiting me after I decommited, me and him (Altman) had the best relationship; we talked the most. I just liked him from the jump and then after the visit I loved it. That was my first official. And then I went to Kansas, Oklahoma State and Memphis and I was still just sold on Oregon. After every visit that I sat down I was like, ‘I like this place but I still like Oregon the best,’ and then decision day came and I just sat down and Oregon felt like the best fit and the place where I’d be the most successful at.”
Can you describe that relationship between you and Altman since September when you decommitted?
“At first it was just meeting the head coach and getting to know each other. Once we got to know each other things started getting more personal and we both started to trust each other. That’s a big thing you have to have for a kid to commit to your school and play for you — the kid has to have trust in you — and in order to believe you have to tell him the truth and that you’ll make him the best player that he can possibly be and the best man that he can be off the court. And I just felt that was best from coach Altman, he cares for us players as a person and I could sense that on the visit. He’s just a great guy.”
Altman’s assistant Tony Stubblefield also recruited you and he’s been regarded in some senses as a father figure to players. What was you relationship like with him?
“You can talk to him about anything at any time of the day. He’s always up. I would text him at seven in the morning our time, which is four in the morning in Oregon, and he’d text me back right quick. He’s already up and moving, talking about having a good day, ‘can’t wait to get you out in June for me.’ He’s a great guy, he cares about you as a person. You can go to him, talk to him about girls, anything. He’s just a great guy and we had a great relationship from the jump and we didn’t even know each other so I knew that he was going to be a good guy and I trusted him.”
What was your reaction to the news involving the Oregon basketball program last week?
“It was pretty tough. Me and Damyean Dotson had a personal relationship. I met him at the Kevin Durant camp over the summer, so I had a personal relationship with him and when I went out there we knew each other. So it was kind of tough because I always wanted to go to college with at least one person I knew and had a personal relationship with so I could vibe with them in the beginning in case I kind of felt like an outsider. I mean, at the end of the day, you’re still going to have to put on the Oregon jersey and play like it’s your last game. Whether with them or without them we’re still going to have to play the game of basketball.”
What was your relationship like with Damyean Dotson after you met him at the Kevin Durant camp?
“I met him at the Kevin Durant camp and he was also at the LeBron James Skills Academy. He got my number at the KD camp. At the KD camp they had this little arcade room and we used to always text each other like, ‘You trying to go to the indoor goals inside and shoot?’ and just play around all over. We pretty much did a lot, played 2K, had a personal relationship and then from the next camp I think it was two weeks and we just texted throughout the two weeks and then we met at LeBron. And then when I found out Oregon was recruiting me, he hit me up and was like, ‘I hope you like it,’ and on my visit that’s who I was with. Me and him had a real good relationship and I was just bummed to see that he had to leave.”
When were you first made aware of the police report that named the players and that they were suspended from team activities?
“I knew probably like a couple days before, but I really wasn’t sure if they were kicked off or not and then someone tweeted me the link and that’s how I found out.”
Were you hearing lingerings that something might take effect at the basketball program?
What were those?
“I heard a little comments that players were in trouble and stuff like that. I didn’t think anything of it, I just thought people were talking to be talking — that’s what people do. But it turned out to be a bad situation.”
Did you read any of the articles throughout that week or know what was going on?
“Yeah, I talked to Elgin (Cook) throughout and I talked to Damyean. I just talked to those two. That was a personal conversation.”
Did the coaches reach out to you?
“I talked to Coach Altman once about it. I talked to Coach Stubbs about it. We just talked about it, and they just told me, ‘You have to come in ready now — you have no choice, so when you come in I hope you’re in shape to prepare for a lot of minutes.’ I talked to both of them probably once and I know they had to deal with a lot, nothing major.”
After this, does your view change on the program or the coaches?
“Nothing really changes for me. It was just a boneheaded mistake and the coaches didn’t do it, so my view on the coaches doesn’t change. He (Dotson) just made a mistake and I wish him the best at the school he’s in next year or whatever. It’s just something, everyone makes mistakes.”
Has the prospect of coming to a program with only four scholarship players returning to the roster set in for you?
“I thought about it the other day while I was sitting in class. I was sitting in class, wasn’t doing anything, so me and my teammates were talking about the team’s picture, where we’re from and all of that. And we all looked it up and then I went to ours and I saw there were only four players and I was like, dang. It is weird to think about right now but as a team and as a union we all have to come in and be ready to work from the jump.”
What do you need to work especially hard on since you might be thrown into a larger role than you may have anticipated?
“I just have to get my body in top shape to play a lot of minutes because we have four players right now and five incoming players and you just have to come in right away and be ready to play right from the jump.”
The star of last year’s team, Joseph Young, is returning. Have you talked to him at all?
“We’ve talked about it and I talked to him and Elgin, but at the same time they’re telling me the same thing: ‘Come in ready to work and play big time minutes and you’ll have a big time role and we’ve only got each other now,’ and that’s the bottom line.”
You played your senior season at Huntington Prep, a basketball academy. What was it like going away from home and playing there?
“I loved it. Basically it prepped me for college. I’m happy I came because going so far away from home. I’m not going to be able to go home in-season and I’m 2,000 miles away from home and I think it just prepped me for that.”
Did that make the decision to choose Oregon any easier being away from home?
“At first I was committed to Louisville, which is like an hour and thirty minutes from home. I’m a momma’s boy, so I wanted my mom to be at all my games, but at the same time you have to do what’s best for you and coming away from home this year just showed me that I’m capable of leaving home, so I wasn’t really worried about going away from home. It (Oregon) is far but I did it this year, so it’s nothing major.”
Follow Justin Wise on Twitter @JWISE25