Ducks Ink Trio of Top 50 Basketball Players

EUGENE – Oregon signed three players rated among the top 50 high schoolers nationally, head coach Dana Altman announced on Monday.

“We were fortunate to be able to get to know these three young men and their families during the recruiting process,” said Altman. “It was really significant to keep a gifted player like Nathan in the state of Oregon and Johnathan and Franck are equally talented.”

ESPN rates Nathan Bittle as the eighth-best prospect in the nation, with Franck Kepnang at No. 22 and Johnathan Lawson at No. 47. That class was ranked No. 1 in the nation last month by ESPN and No. 8 by Sports Illustrated.

“Each of these three young men brings a unique skill set to our program,”  Altman said. “Our fans are going to enjoy getting to know them and watching them represent the University of Oregon.”

Bittle, the 2020 Oregon 5A player of the year for Crater High School, is the sixth five-star signee (247Sports) for the Ducks since 2017. He is the highest-rated in-state recruit landed by Oregon, surpassing 2020 Bob Cousy National Point Guard of the Year Payton Pritchard of West Linn. Last week, Bittle was named to the 2021 Naismith Trophy high school boys watch list.

Kepnang, from Yaoundé, Cameroon, prepped at Westtown High School in West Chester, Pa. He is ranked among the top eight centers nationally by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports and is in the top 50 players overall by those three services.

Lawson, the 2020 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and Class AA Mr. Basketball, is the younger brother of current Duck sophomore Chandler Lawson and will become the fourth member of the Lawson family to play Division I basketball.

Nathan Bittle. 6-11, 200, Central Point, Ore. (Crater HS/Prolific Prep)

Five-star center according to ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals … Ranked as the nation’s second-best center by ESPN and No. 3 by 247Sports and Rivals … The No. 8 player nationally in his class by ESPN (grade of 94), No. 16 from 247Sports (grade of 98) and No. 19 by Rivals … Named to the 2021 Naismith Trophy high school boys watch list … Earned All-America honors as both a sophomore and a junior from MaxPreps and USA Today … Was the 2020 Oregon 5A state player of the year as a junior at Crater High School … Averaged 25.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.5 blocks, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game to lead the Comets to the 2020 5A state semifinals before the tournament was halted due to the Covid-19 Pandemic … In the state quarterfinal game versus West Albany, tied his own Oregon tournament record with 10 blocks to go along with 35 points and 15 rebounds … Initially recorded 10 blocks versus Pendleton in the 2019 tournament when he also scored 40 points with 16 rebounds … As a sophomore (2018-19), averaged 21.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game … Named one of 13 finalists for the 2019 USA Basketball U16 National Team … Transferred to Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., for his senior season.
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Johnathan Lawson. 6-6, 165, Memphis, Tenn. (Wooddale HS)

Four-star small forward according to ESPN and Rivals … Rated as the 47th-best player nationally in his class by ESPN, which gave him a grade of 85 … The No. 10 small forward in the nation according to ESPN … In Tennessee, was ranked as the state’s No. 2 player by ESPN and No. 4 by 247Sports, which assigned him a rating of 89 … Averaged 26.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game as a junior for Wooddale High School (2019-20) … Shot 64 percent from the field, including 48 percent from three-point range … Was the 2020 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and Class AA Mr. Basketball … Coached by his father Keelon Lawson at Wooddale … The younger brother of current UO sophomore Chandler Lawson … Older brother Dedric Lawson played collegiately at Memphis and Kansas, while another brother, K.J. Lawson, played for Memphis and Tulane.


Franck Kepnang. 6-11, 225, Yaoundé, Cameroon (Westtown (Pa.) HS)

Ranked in the top 50 overall and among the top 10 for centers in the class of 2021 … Rated No. 22 in the nation by ESPN (88 grade), No. 28 by Rivals and No. 42 by 247Sports (95 grade) … Among centers, is ranked fourth nationally ESPN, fifth by Rivals and eighth by 247Sports … Rated as the No. 3 player in Pennsylvania by 247Sports and No. 4 by ESPN … Averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game for Westtown High School (West Chester, Pa.) in 2019-20 … Played for PSA Cardinals on the grassroots circuit … Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon … Mother is Hortense Tchuisseu.