5-Star C Nathan Bittle Commits to Oregon over UCLA, Gonzaga

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2020

Credit: 247Sports

Highly touted center Nathan Bittle committed to Oregon on Tuesday, he announced on his Instagram. 

The Prolific Prep product had long been thought of as a borderline lock to Oregon. 247Sports gave him a 100 percent chance of selecting Dana Altman's program. The recruiting service ranks Bittle as the No. 17 overall prospect in the class of 2021.

In his sophomore year at Crater High, the 6'10" big man averaged 21.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks. 

Bittle can be an imposing figure around the basket. In the consolation semifinals of the 2019 state tournament, he blocked a record 10 shots. He blocked another 10 shots in a quarterfinal victory over South Albany in the 2020 tournament.

"When he doesn't gamble and he stays down, his ability as a secondary defender is as good as I've seen ever," Crater head coach Chris Schmerbach said, per the Mail Tribune's Kris Henry. "He just knows where the ball's going to be, and his timing and reaction are really impressive. When you have a 7'5" wingspan, it gives you the ability to get a lot of them, that's for sure."

Bittle and Crater needed two victories to win what would have been the school's first championship, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of winter sports across Oregon.

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Bittle's height and wingspan certainly put him in a class above his peers, an advantage he won't have as freely in college. His gaudy block numbers speak to his defensive instincts, though. He'll make an immediate impact around the basket at the next level.

Bittle is cut from the current mold of centers in that he can stretch the floor as well. 247Sports' Josh Gerson, who evaluated him in December 2018, drew a parallel to former NBA forward Channing Frye.

Frye began his NBA career as a more traditional frontcourt player before embracing the long-range jumper. He ended his career as a 38.8 percent three-point shooter.

Improving his perimeter game will not only help Bittle thrive in college but also boost his NBA draft stock down the road.

In general, Bittle has the tools necessary to play a starring role for the Ducks in 2021-22.

Oregon has become a perennial NCAA tournament contender under head coach Dana Altman, which is a distinction that generally hasn't applied to the program prior to his arrival. The Ducks made their second-ever Final Four appearance in 2017.

Bittle is the kind of talent Altman needs to successfully recruit more regularly in order to get Oregon to the next level.