Will Richardson is back for a fifth year in the Oregon Ducks’ backcourt, and Oregon is looking to lean on not only his scoring but his leadership for a team that has pretty sizable expectations in the new year.

The Ducks topped 20 wins last season for the 12th straight year, but they endured the most conference losses they’ve had in a season since the 2010-11 campaign. It was an up-and-down year for the squad, and that was true on an individual level for Richardson.

From Dec. 12 through Feb. 12, Richardson scored in double figures in 15 straight games. That included five games of at least 20 points. He shot at least 50% from the field in 11 of those 15 games. Oregon, during the same time, surged to 16-8. But the Ducks lost five of their final six regular-season games while Richardson’s play dropped off. He missed both of the team’s Pac-12 Tournament games and then both of the Ducks’ NIT games.

Around the same time, rampant speculation about what ailed Richardson ran wild. So much so that coach Dana Altman publicly revealed that Richardson, who missed the Ducks’ last five games, was dealing with mononucleosis. “He didn’t want anyone knowing his business,” said Altman at the time.

Richardson had a choice to make after the year: return for a fifth season or try for a fresh start somewhere else. Altman essentially gave his blessing if Richardson elected to go the latter route.

The 6-foot-5 guard put his name into the NFL Draft pool, but eventually withdrew it and told Altman he was running it back one more time.

“I wanted to be here,” Richardson said this week. But he had others who wanted to see him test the pro waters. Richardson wanted a better ending to his Oregon story, though. “Coming back to Oregon, I love it here.”

Oregon retooled the roster around its star guard. Newcomers figure to play key roles throughout the rotation. Five-star center Kel’el Ware joins the frontcourt. The Ducks have guards galore with the additions of Tyrone Williams (junior college), Keeshawn Barthelemy (Colorado), and Jermaine Couisnard (South Carolina).

The Ducks should be pretty good once again.

It comes back to Richardson, though.

“He needs to take leadership,” said Altman. “He knows what we’re trying to do. He knows what got us conference championships and Sweet Sixteen teams and he’s also seen the other side of it, what hasn’t worked. I’m depending on that leadership.

“I’m glad he’s back. I think he can have a tremendous year for us. But it’s a team game. Now he’s got to bring his teammates along with him. He’s got to pay attention to the details of the game. But I want him to have an outstanding year. I’d sure like to see him continue to get better, stay healthy, and have an opportunity to keep playing.”

It’s something you have to get comfortable with, Richardson says. It’s an everyday thing.

“Coach Altman always says the hardest part of being a leader is you have to do it every single day,” Richardson said “I was inconsistent. I’d have some weeks where I was a great leader, and then I’d have some weeks where I disappeared. So this year, it’s just me working on being consistent, whether my life is going good or not, making sure I am doing what I am here to do, and that’s lead the team.”