SEATTLE — Former UNLV standout Shakur Juiston took the floor for pregame warmups Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena, his No. 8 Oregon Ducks looking to rebound after getting upset Thursday by Washington State.
Wearing a stern look as he made his way through a disciplined process and methodical approach, he kept to himself while firing shots from around the key in preparation for a critical Pac 12 showdown against Washington.
The difference from his time at UNLV, however, was a lack of pressure he carried with him for the Rebels. He seems content as a role player for Oregon.
Juiston helped the Ducks rally from a 16-point second-half deficit by hitting the game-tying basket with 17 seconds left to send the game into overtime. The 6-foot-7-inch senior forward finished with eight points, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in Oregon’s 64-61 victory.
“We fought. I felt like we all locked in,” said Juiston, a graduate transfer who averaged 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in 2017-18 for the Rebels, then missed most of last season after undergoing knee surgery to repair a meniscus injury. “We got down 16, but we didn’t fold. … Everybody in there is probably gonna have a cramp.”
For Juiston, who hit just 3 of 11 from the field, the entire month has been somewhat of a cramp. After averaging 8.8 points, a team-high 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the first eight games, he missed all five games in December with a lower leg injury. He’s averaged 6.8 points and 6.5 rebounds for the Ducks (15-4, 4-2 Pac 12) since his return.
“I thought his energy level was good,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “You spend five weeks out it takes a little time to get back.”
That doesn’t mean Altman has lost confidence in Juiston. He drew the daunting task of rotating in the paint to help guard freshman phenom Isaiah Stewart, who finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds for the Huskies (12-7, 2-4).
The bigger and wider-framed Stewart drew Juiston into foul trouble, but it didn’t stop him from denying ball pressure and forcing the Huskies to find an alternate landing spot for their passes.
“He’s definitely better in person than on film,” Stewart said. “On film, I didn’t expect him to do what he was doing today. The way he was guarding, it was harder for our guards to get me the ball. He plays with energy.”
Surrounded by an entirely different caliber of talent than his time at UNLV, Juiston has adjusted nicely to his new surroundings under Altman and playing alongside National Player of the Year candidate Payton Pritchard.
“Shakur is a senior, and he has this wisdom to him where he can approach guys, and he competes,” Pritchard said. “His life experiences really connect with a lot of people. His toughness, he wanted to take the challenge with Isaiah Stewart, and he did in the second half. That helps our team build toughness, because we follow that.”
Juiston will return to Las Vegas for the Pac 12 tournament in March at T-Mobile Arena. The trip will rekindle memories of his time at UNLV. He said there’s no hard feelings toward the school.
“No one did not support my decision when I made it,” Juiston said. “They said their goodbyes with kind hearts.”