Last week, with the high school basketball season behind us and the summer of AAU about to begin, ESPN released their annual rankings for the classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Some players have maintained their status in the rankings, whereas others have come out of seemingly nowhere to national acclaim. Within these new rankings, two names appeared on the ESPN 60, the board for upcoming juniors and something happened that hasn’t occurred in over a decade.
Two Oregon high school players have appeared among the high school’s elite in Ben Gregg (Clackamas HS) and Nate Bittle (Crater HS).
Nate Bittle comes from an athletic family, as his father was a basketball player and stories circulate around his grandfather as well as quite the ballplayer for Crater High School years ago. Nicknamed “The Alligator”, Bittle plays for a humble team in Crater High School, but nothing about his game bears the same “humble” resemblance.
During the 5A State playoffs he racked up a ridiculous 40 point triple-double to go with 16 rebounds, and 10 blocks and was named to the MaxPreps All-American sophomore team, as well. He is listed at 6’10” with a 7’5” wing span, which explains his ability to block and alter shots with ease. He has a tremendous stroke and can put the ball on the floor and advance it comfortably with his big strides. That, to go along with his ability to throw the outlet pass, completes Bittle as an all-around talent that many schools were be heavily in pusuit of.
Bittle plays for the highly-touted West Coast Elite of Southern California on the Under Armour Association circuit, the same program that’s produced talents such as Nico Mannion (2019 Arizona commit), Cassius Stanley (2019 Duke commit), and Miles Norris (Oregon).
Oregon State has already offered Bittle, who is entertaining interest from most of the Pac-12, as well as a number of national programs including Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga and Wake Forest.
As for Ben Gregg, the 6’8”, 190-pound forward didn’t waste a second last year, as he started the season as an unknown regional prospect and currently stands number 30 in the 2021 ESPN Top 60.
In December, Ben and his high school Columbia Christian faced off against Gonzaga Prep (WA), the future WIAA 3A State Champions, which included a stacked roster, highlighted by Gonzaga commit Anton Watson. Gregg’s myriad of skills, including his deft ball handling skills, knack to get to the rim, and quick and accurate shot release helped Gregg to prove they he could compete against top-tier talents. Although Columbia Christian fell in the contest, Gregg displayed immense patience and maturity for a sixteen year old sophomore, enough for bystander and Oregon head coach Dana Altman to offer him a scholarship on the spot.
Since then, colleges have flocked to secure Gregg’s services including the likes of Oregon State, California, Texas, Washington State and more. Last November, Gregg took a visit to Corvallis and posed in a Beavers Jersey, which hopefully will be a sign of things to come for the Oregon State program.
Traditionally, Oregon has been a pedestrian, yet competitive state for high school basketball, that has found itself as a quality over quantity type of area when it comes to top-level recruits. However, in order to track the last time the state has had two recruits in the National Top 30 of recruiting rankings, you would have to rewind back to the year 2007.
This year marked the dominance of a husky, then 6’9” big man by the name of Kevin Love. Kevin suited up for the Lake Oswego Lakers and won a State Championship during his tenure, including an impressive win over the Mater Dei Monarchs in their own tournament, the Nike Extravaganza. Love traveled down to Southern California for the contest with the flu, but a-la Michael Jordan, had a monster game to take down the Monarchs, whom were heavily favored with more than five Division-1 prospects on their team.
In addition to the talents of Love, Oregon had another great player that lived not too far down the I-5 in South Medford named Kyle Singler. The 6’8” sharpshooter, who had a full head of hair at that time and signed to play with another blue-blood program at Duke, eventually would go on to win an illustrious NCAA National Championship during his junior season with the Blue Devils. But first, Singler had to give Love a run for his money, in terms of taking home the accolade of the top player in the state.
The last time a Top 100 recruit entered the scene from the state of Oregon was Kamaka Hepa in 2018, an Alaskan-native who prepped for Jefferson High School the last two seasons of his career. However, Hepa came to the Beaver State mainly for basketball reasons and stepped right into a historically successful program at Jefferson. Generally speaking, Oregon is regularly considered the little brother to Washington in terms of Division-1 college basketball talents and can nowhere near compare to the depth and brutality of high-level, high school talents from California.
However, from the Love-Singler days to the new era of the Bittle-Gregg duo, the chances for two in-state pieces to change the image of Oregon high school basketball has officially arrived.
Here’s to hoping it’s Oregon State that now land the services of these two talented players in the near future.