When COVID-19 forced NCAA sports into remission last March, I struggled to wrap my head around an Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team with three of the school’s greatest players — Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard — not getting one last shot at winning a national title. Setting aside the universal disappointment in locker rooms across the country, how does any coach reload after an elite trio leaves the college ranks to fulfill their professional hoop dreams? Is it possible to capture lightning in a bottle year after year?
Head coach Kelly Graves didn’t flinch, bringing in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class with FIVE five-star freshman prospects — Te-Hina Paopao, Sydney Parrish, Maddie Scherr, Angela Dugalic and Kylee Watson — all of whom were named McDonald’s All-Americans. That’s a pretty good start.
Add Sedona Prince, a 6-foot 7 five-star transfer from Texas (tied with Stefanie Kasperski as the tallest female athlete to play basketball for the Ducks) and German sophomore Nyara Sabally, younger sister to Satou (Dallas Wings), and you have the makings of another great team, right?
𝆺𝅥𝅯𝈀𝆺𝅥𝅯𝆺𝅥𝅯𝈀𝆺𝅥𝅯𝆺𝅥𝅯𝆺𝅥𝅯 at Cal.
— Oregon Women’s Basketball (@OregonWBB) January 10, 2021
After three straight Pac-12 titles, expectations were fairly high. So, with the Ducks receiving a Top 10 preseason ranking, how’s it going? Well, the predictions were fairly accurate. The No. 10 Ducks (9-2, 7-2) lead the conference and rank 12th in the nation with a team field goal percentage of 48%, according to GoDucks.com. Whoa.
And Nyara, who missed her first two seasons with the Ducks due to knee injuries, is the team’s second-leading scorer (12.3 points per game, with an otherworldly 58% field goal percentage) and currently leads the Pac-12 with 3.4 offensive rebounds per game. Senior Erin Boley, a Notre Dame transfer on the preseason watch list for the Cheryl Miller Award, is having an incredible season for the Ducks.
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Boley is the team’s leading scorer averaging 12.5 points per game, recorded eight games with double-digit scoring performances and has made 205 three-pointers throughout her career at Oregon (No. 5 all-time).
After back-to-back losses to No. 1 Stanford and No. 8 UCLA, Oregon delivered a stunning 100-41 win over California, handing the Golden Bears program its worst loss in program history.
While the Coronavirus continues to interfere with basketball programs everywhere, the Ducks seem to be in a good position. So what do you think, Ducks fans? Is Oregon better than expected?
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Top Photo By: Gary Breedlove
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