Having played five times since 2015, Boise State’s nonconference road opener at No. 15 Oregon will feel more like a league game for the Broncos.
The drama of the transfer portal only adds to that familiarity.
Former Mountain West Conference men’s basketball standouts Shakur Juiston (UNLV) and Anthony Mathis (New Mexico) joined the Ducks in the offseason as graduate transfers, and both started in Oregon’s season-opening win against Fresno State on Tuesday. Meanwhile, former Oregon forward Abu Kigab will be eligible to play for the Broncos at the end of the first semester.
Kigab can’t travel with the Broncos until he’s eligible, so he won’t get a courtside seat for Saturday’s 9 p.m. MT matchup at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
“You don’t sign a (nondisclosure agreement), but a player’s perspective and a coach’s perspective are usually different,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Sometimes you get some insight of some things, but (Abu) doesn’t even get to go to the game, so that’s kind of a bummer.”
While Boise State (1-0) had to glean what it could from Kigab in practices this week, Oregon (1-0) hopes to take full advantage of its transfers in Saturday’s game.
Mathis, who played high school basketball at West Linn (Ore.) High with Oregon senior point guard Payton Pritchard, was one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in the Mountain West a year ago. He averaged a team-high 14.4 points per game for the Lobos and shot 41.6 percent from beyond the arc. His 106 made triples last season set a New Mexico single-season record.
The 6-foot-7 Juiston played in eight games last season for UNLV until he opted to undergo season-ending knee surgery. The NCAA granted him a medical redshirt. In 2017-18, Juiston started all 33 games for the Rebels and averaged a double-double of 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. He led the Mountain West and ranked seventh in the nation with a shooting percentage of 63.9 percent.
“Both those players are great players. I mean, Juiston, holy cow. He was a load at UNLV. He’s just a weapon, and both of them are,” Rice said. “They both bring something to the table that can be very, very dangerous. One of them is one of the best shooters in the country, and the other one is one of the best rebounders, attack-the-basket guys there is out there. That’s two pretty good players right there.”
The Ducks return three scholarship players — Pritchard, Francis Okoro and Will Richardson — from a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. Oregon swept both meetings with the Broncos last season and owns an 8-2 lead in the series.
“You’re always eager for the competition. We’re going out of the shallow end into the middle of the ocean where the sharks are,” Rice said of the transition from playing NAIA program Life Pacific to a ranked Oregon squad.
“Oregon’s a great program. They’ve reloaded again, and they’re a top 20 team and certainly look like it. We know what a challenge it is, and we know we’re going to have to play a great, A-plus game to even compete.”
As of Thursday, 19 scouts representing 18 different NBA teams had requested credentials for Saturday’s game, providing an early opportunity for an NBA Draft prospect like Boise State guard Derrick Alston to showcase his skill set against elite competition.
“It’s never all or nothing anytime out,” Rice said. “The great thing about Derrick is that’s not the focus. The focus isn’t just a showcase for Derrick. It’s about accomplishing the mission, and our mission is to go over there and compete. He’ll keep his eyes on that.”