This past weekend the Oregon women’s basketball team played their last two regular season home gamesand took the opportunity to celebrate seniors Minyon Moore, Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard along with departing junior Satou Sabally. While also clinching the Pac-12 regular season title, it was a true celebration. Not only for the team, but the two sell-out crowds who were there to witness it.
All four players have had an enormous impact on the Oregon women’s basketball program. The run started with Ionescu and Hebard’s freshmen season, when they led the team to a surprise Elite Eight run before falling to eventual champion UConn. Then followed three straight Pac-12 championships, another Elite Eight, and a Final Four appearance. Now in their final year as Ducks, Sabally, Moore, Ionescu and Hebard hope to complete their legacy with a national championship.
Sabally is a veritable unicorn in the women’s basketball game. At 6’4″, she has the size to match up with most posts but possesses the skills of a guard, making her a nightmare mismatch on the offensive end. Highly ranked internationally but still somewhat of an unknown coming to Oregon, Sabally made an impact from the moment she set foot in Eugene.
Every season she has improved a part of her game while continuing to be an integral part of the Ducks’ success. The biggest adjustment she has made is her ability to go get offensive rebounds, giving her team multiple extra possessions. While her three point shooting has not been as consistent this season as in years past, she is still averaging career highs in both points and rebounds.
Sabally is projected to be a top-5 pick in the upcoming WNBA draft and has the ability to become a star professionally, whether in the WNBA or internationally. Because of her size and skill, she has the potential to be the best of the four departing Ducks at the next level.
Moore, even only being here one year, has been a pivotal part of this team’s success this season. Helping fill the void in the starting lineup left by Maite Cazorla, Moore has brought intensity and leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball. She has also helped relieve Ionescu of point guard duties, allowing Ionesco to be more of a creator and scorer on the offensive end.
Moore chose Oregon because she wanted a chance to play for a national championship in her final season of college basketball. The Ducks hope to make that dream a reality as they continue on on to the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments.
Hebard came to Oregon with big shoes to fill, following Jillian Alleyne, who was one of the most statistically productive posts in Ducks history. Hebard more than held her own in her four years with Oregon. Averaging 16.4 points and 9.o rebounds while shooting an astonishing 65% during her career, Hebard anchored the Ducks down low.
A master around the basket, Hebard set an NCAA record making 33 straight shot attempts during her sophomore season. As part of the best pick and roll duo in basketball, she has been a consistent and reliable scorer, rebounder and defender for the Ducks.
Hebard has been the main, and sometimes only, post player for the Ducks over the past two seasons. Battling against some of the best players in the game night in and night out, Hebard consistently not only held her own, but won many of those matchups. She is not a flashy player, and sometimes her dominance can be easily over looked, but make no doubt about it: the Ducks would not be where they are today without her.
Another potential top-10 pick in the upcoming WNBA draft, Hebard will continue her success at the next level. Whichever team she ends up with will get a tough, reliable and skilled player who will be ready to contribute right away. Although she may not have the ceiling of Ionescu or Sabally, she will be a consistent player for many years.
There are no words that can express the impact Sabrina Ionescu has had, not only on Oregon women’s basketball but on all of basketball. We are all familiar with the statistics achieved, records broken and accolades won. But it is the excitement and love for women’s basketball that she will be remembered for most during her time in Eugene.
The first Oregon women’s basketball player to have her jersey made and sold, Ionescu has become one of the all-time greats in Oregon history. Not only her skill, but her competitive drive and will will to win, have made her e a fan favorite, and one that will never be forgotten.
The unanimously-projected number one pick in the WNBA draft, Ionescu has the chance to become the face of women’s basketball (if she isn’t already). A generational talent that will continue to grow not only her game but also her brand, she is just getting started in what should be an amazing career.
This group has revitalized Oregon women’s basketball, turning the program into a perennial championship contender. And the fans have taken notice. In Kelly Graves’s first season with the Ducks, the average attendance was just 1,501. Fast forward six years, and the average attendance this season was 10,619, best in the Pac-12 and second in the nation.
These players have started something great here at Oregon, and now it will be up to the next group to continue that legacy. Thank you seniors (and Satou)!
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, OregonTop Photo by Twitter
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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