Bell Declares for NBA Draft, Benson to Transfer from Oregon Ducks

Jordan Bell rose to the occasion after teammate, Chris Boucher, suffered a season-ending injury during the Pac-12 Tournament. For the Oregon Ducks to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, a team effort was the only option. Regardless if starting or coming off the bench, Dana Altman expected an impact from his players.

As for Bell, he took the message to heart and made his presence known defensively.

Tyler Dorsey may have quietly executed against Kansas in the Elite Eight, but Bell’s block party paved the way. Bell had eight blocks, thwarting Kanas’ comeback attempt and leaving the pro-Kanas crowd quiet in Kansas City. His defensive game helped Oregon reach the Final Four for the first time since 1939.

Like Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, Bell joined the departing flock of Oregon Ducks and declared for the NBA Draft. With a draft stock at a high for reaching the Final Four, Bell felt the time was now to turn pro. The Long Beach, California native finished the 2016-17 season averaging about 11 points per game and about nine rebounds per game for the Ducks. Defensively, the junior had 88 blocks on the year.

Though the thought of unfinished business resonates with the departing Ducks, the risk of injury certainly factored into leaving for the NBA Draft. For Bell, the sting of losing to North Carolina will hurt for some time. Despite not playing well, Oregon was in a position to win the game. A shot never got off as Bell was unable to pull in critical rebounds to have an opportunity. Bell finished the game with 13 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks.

Heartbroken on the court, Bell apologized after the contest before emotions took over. Bell should not shoulder the blame for the letting the game get away as the team did not play well as a whole. Overall, Bell deserves praise for what he brought to Oregon. His contributions will never be forgotten in Eugene.

A great defensive tool set, Bell is a name NBA teams will look at to shore up the defense. Along with his defensive prowess, Bell can provide an offensive presence and chip in points. Given time to develop, Bell can be an effective all-around player as a starter but could be utilized off the bench to begin his career. Bell will likely hear his name called in the second round of the NBA Draft.

Bell announced he had signed with an agent when he declared for the NBA Draft, ending any chance for a return to Oregon. On Monday, he denied a report by The Vertical he was leaving Oregon for the NBA Draft. He officially announced his decision on Tuesday to end speculation.

For Dana Altman, next season will have new faces looking to replicate what Dorsey, Brooks, and Bell brought to Oregon. The nucleus though will be starting over as another Duck has chosen to leave the program. Casey Benson announced he is seeking a graduate-transfer and play for another school. He received his undergraduate degree from Oregon but has opted to play his final year elsewhere. As a graduate transfer, Benson will be immediately eligible to play in the 2017-18 season.

Benson originally started this season for the Ducks but saw his time coming off the bench after the emergence of freshman Payton Pritchard this season. Perhaps Benson may play closer to home in Tempe, Arizona, or transfer where he can be a starter. Despite a smaller role this season, Benson was a significant contributor to the last two NCAA Tournament runs by Oregon.

Coach Altman may have a different cast next season, but the success of a Final Four appearance will keep Oregon in the running for top recruits. Since arriving in Eugene, Altman has built the Duck’ into contenders and signs point to continuing success. Another Final Four appearance may be a bit much to ask next season, but Altman will have his players ready and make another NCAA Tournament appearance. Among those returning next season, M.J. Cage is a name to remember.

As Bell departs Eugene, the future is bright with the NBA on the horizon. The crop of Oregon Ducks entering the draft will certainly make an impact for their respected teams. Despite not finishing the mission, Dorsey, Brooks, and Bell will play with a chip on their shoulders and hopefully, one day wins an NBA Championship.

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