Updated: Aug 5, 2020
It’s been nearly a decade since the state of Oregon has sent a participant to the McDonald’s All-American game, with Jesuit’s Kyle Wiltjer having last made the trip in 2011. If there’s a game in 2021, Oregon will assuredly be represented by Nathan Bittle, a five-star, top-10 recruit from a small town in southern Oregon.
His skillset is advanced for a wing, much less someone standing nearly 7’ with a whopping 7’5+ wingspan. Bittle has consistently displayed a great deal of ability and confidence with NBA range on his jump shot. He can use either hand with touch around the hoop, can attack a closeout and has ball skills that let him handle in space and throw pinpoint passes from just about anywhere on the court. He also moves very well at his size, and is a defensive force around the rim, having become a high-level shot blocker and paint protector.
Before the 2019-20 season was officially canceled, Bittle had a banner performance in the 5A state quarterfinal, with 35 points (including 5-9 3PT), 15 rebounds and 10 blocks in just 23 minutes of action in a 76-43 win over South Albany. Bittle, the 5A Oregon State Player of the Year, averaged 25.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game during his junior season. He actually upped those averages against top competition, as he averaged 28.5, 12.7 and 5 in games against top-4 6A and top-8 5A opponents.
Bittle was the leading scorer in the prestigious Les Schwab Invitational tournament in 2019, and has a number of USA Basketball camps under his belt. He was the final cut of the USA Basketball U16 team last summer and surely would have tried out for the U17 team if given the chance. He’s spent the past few years playing for Under Armour’s West Coast Elite AAU program, and will look to keep his talents out west for college despite having been recruited nationally by the likes of Georgia Tech, Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest. Bittle announced his final four, today, and will choose between Arizona, Gonzaga, Oregon, and UCLA.
In this interview, Bittle breaks down those final four schools and talks about his development during COVID-19, his close ties to his family, his experience with USA Basketball, his days as a pitcher, his golf game, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Nathan Bittle, from Central Point, Oregon:
Pro Insight: It’s been over a year since we did our last Q&A together. What have these past 12-15 months looked like for you?
Nathan Bittle: The last year was really good. Playing with Team USA at the tryouts and everything was just a great experience. Being able to play against the top-50 players of every class, just making you that much better. Then this last season, my high school team did really good — we were on a roll at state — we had won our quarterfinal game by 30 or 40 points. I had a triple-double in that game. We were set to probably win the whole thing, then all the stuff [coronavirus] happened. So however long that’s been — I’ve lost track, now — like the last six months, or so. So after that, me and my dad got into a local gym and started working out there. To stay in shape, we started running a nearby mountain — it’s probably three-and-a-half or four miles roundtrip. My dad also has a group of guys that all played college basketball, so in the mornings we all go to the gym in White City and just play five-on-five for about two hours. Then weights, then just back home once I have all my workouts done. And I get to hang out with friends and stuff during my free time.
PI: In what areas have you developed and matured on the court this past season?
NB: I think I’ve gotten a lot stronger and developed my game in the post. I can still shoot the ball really well. On defense, I’m blocking shots consistently, every game. So I think on the defensive end, it’s been blocking shots and on the offensive end it’s been establishing myself in the post.
PI: How about off the court?
NB: I think I’ve just gotten more assertive — like “this is what I want to do.” I do my weights, my workouts with my dad, and I’ve just really decided on and set my goal of wanting to play in the NBA. I want to make money playing the game of basketball.
PI: What all have you been doing to stay ready throughout this pandemic?
NB: My focus has just been keeping my shot down — I don’t want to lose my touch, or anything like that. So just shooting like 300-400 shots [per day]. Also just working on my post game. Staying in shape by running. I think something that’s really helped has been playing five-on-five with that group of guys that have played college basketball before, so stuff like that. It’s been great still being able to get that “game-like” mentality despite it not being an actual game.
PI: What does a current ‘day in the life’ of Nathan Bittle look like?
NB: So three days a week I wake up at 5 A.M. We start playing at 5:30 and play till about 7:30 A.M. Right after that, I go do my weights with my strength coach — come home, eat breakfast, nap, hang out with some friends in the afternoon a little bit, go shoot 300-400 shots, and then after that I have free time to do whatever I want...go hang out with friends, go to the lake, stuff like that.
PI: What do you love most about the game of basketball?
NB: Probably just the way it allows me to interact with people, playing against good competition. I think that’s something I really like. In AAU, you’re playing against guys like Chet Holmgren and Jalen Suggs in the UAA [Under Armour Association], so playing against those guys and then at USA, playing against the top-50 dude in my class — all just playing together and having a great time. It’s super competitive, but at the same time it’s just a cool experience to play against these guys that are just as good as you or even better than you.
PI: Describe your greatest all-time memory on the basketball court.
NB: Probably at the LSI [Les Schwab Invitational] — I think I had a 40 point game, a 30-point game, 20, then like 30 again. It was just a great stretch. We were playing against some really good teams: Clackamas — a 6A school; we played Bishop Gorman, we were right there with them down to the final minute; and we played Churchill, who’s in our league. They’re really good and we beat them by like 20 in that tournament. So it was just a great team tournament. My team played great. It was just a great experience.