Waiting For The Prince
The Oregon Women’s Basketball team received some disappointing news recently when the NCAA deemed Texas transfer Sedona Prince ineligible this season. The University of Oregon athletic department had applied for a waiver for Prince to play this year after she felt uncomfortable with the way her rehab process was going at Texas.
Prince, who transferred to Oregon this past summer, was rated as the eighth-best high school player of the 2018 recruiting class. She did, however, miss the entirety of last season after breaking her leg competing for team USA in the FIBA America’s Under-18 Championships in the summer of 2018.
Prince is still rehabbing and working her way back from that injury, so while she was not expected to be ready to play until sometime during conference play, the Ducks were hoping for big contributions from her later this season.
When Prince returns for the 2020 season, she will be joining the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, comprised of five five-star players. It will be the new era of Oregon women’s basketball, and with Prince’s size and skill, she will certainly be a force down low and a focal point of the team for years to come. She will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Ducks Searching For Three-Point Magic
One of the main calling cards of Oregon women’s basketball under the direction of Kelly Graves has been offensive efficiency. Each of the past two seasons, the Lady Ducks have shot over 50% from the field, 40% from the three and 75% from the free throw line as a team. That was good enough for top 10 nationally both years.
While the Ducks are still averaging 88.1 points per game this season, fourth best in the country, they have only shot 36% from the three-point line. Despite a small sample size so far this season, if the Ducks want to reach their national championship aspirations, they will have to improve from distance.
The drop off comes as a little bit of a surprise so far this season. Last year, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally, Erin Boley and Maite Cazorla accounted for 815 of the team’s 907 (90%) three-point attempts, while shooting a combined 42%. The expected change was with the departure of Cazorla, and the bulk of her minutes have been replaced by Minyon Moore, who is only a career 29% from the three-point line. As good as Moore has been this season, she just isn’t the shooter that Cazorla was.
The surprise comes, however, with the three returning wings. This year, Ionescu, Sabally and Boley are shooting a combined 33% from behind the arc, with Ionescu and Sabally having the biggest drop off. Ionescu is shooting just 32% from three this season, and Sabally is at a dismal 27%.
Ionescu and Sabally have been competing internationally this summer and fall. Ionescu (and Ruthy Hebard) helped team USA win the 3×3 Pan American Games this July. Sabally missed the first three regular season games this season because she was playing for Germany in the FIBA Women’s Eurobasket 2021 qualifiers.
These women are tremendous athletes, and while I don’t think the extra highly competitive action is the only reason for the lack of production from deep, it could definitely be a contributing factor. Not to mention the physically and emotionally draining exhibition game against Team USA just before the season began.
That is why I have been preaching that this Oregon team needs to build depth and have consistent contributions from the bench. As good as the starting five is, they can’t do it alone every night.
Watching this team play, one of the biggest difference makers is Boley. When she is making shots, the Ducks are unguardable on offense. However, when she is not making shots, she can tend to get lost in the flow of the game without contributing much else to the stat sheet. Until she is able to find her shot, it might be a good opportunity for younger players to get more playing time.
The two guards who have been the most productive off the bench this season are Jaz Shelley and Taylor Chavez. They both are shooting over 40% from three, and have had breakout games so far this season. Shelley had 10 three pointers against UC Riverside, and Chavez had six three pointers against Utah State. Both these players are going to be crucial for Oregon’s success, not only this season, but in years to come.
Even with the uncharacteristic shooting, the Ducks are still finding a way to score points and win games. It is going to be a scary sight for other teams when they find their shot. The competition is about to ramp up in conference play, and I think these Ducks will be ready.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo from Twitter
Spencer Thomas, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches football at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.
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