Oregon Women’s Basketball Ready to Run it Back

Alex Nordstrand Editorials

Fans can agree that the Oregon Women’s Basketball team had a rollercoaster-type season for 2020-21. After starting the season 8-0, the Ducks had some difficulties down the stretch, finishing 7-9, for an overall record of 15-9. Now, that record can be a little deceiving, because of those nine losses, seven of them were against teams ranked inside the top 10, with the other two coming against in-state rival Oregon State, who was an NCAA Tournament team. This group of Lady Ducks weren’t quite in the elite, but were right on the edge of jumping into that category.

With so many newcomers and substantial inexperience in the lineup, it was not surprising to see the Ducks struggle against top flight competition. However, they did battle and compete in the majority of their games, showing the promise and potential this team could have for years to come. Obviously, they will need to continue to grow and get better, as the PAC-12 has proven to be the dominant conference in Women’s College Basketball this year with two of it’s teams playing for the National Championship and Stanford winning it all. But the Ducks have the talent, depth and coaching to compete in this league and the country.

Looking ahead to next season, the overall look of the team will remain very similar to this past season’s lineup. The Ducks lose seniors Erin Boley and Lydia Giomi, as well as transfers Jaz Shelley and Taylor Chavez, but the core of the team is back. While these are experienced, veteran players leaving, it opens the door for the talented returners and newcomers to show what they can do.

To go along with the group returning, the Ducks are also bringing in two promising Freshman in Taylor Bigby and Phillipina Kyei. Bigby, yet another 5-star recruit for Kelly Graves, and Kyei standing at six-foot-eight, will both look to make an immediate impact next season.

Taylor Bigby will look to make an impact as a Freshman

Bigby, a six-foot-one guard from Nevada, can do a little bit of everything. She plays hard, is a good defender, can handle the ball, and can even shoot it a little bit. Where she can make an impact for the Ducks, and where they most need it, is as a player who can slash to the basket, either scoring or making plays for others. This is an area where the Ducks struggled this past season. They had a lot of great players and shooters, but were not able to consistently create points off the dribble, especially once Te-Hina Paopao went down with an injury.

This is where Bigby can come in and earn minutes amongst this talented group. If she proves that she is able to attack the basket, she will find herself on the court. She should be a good compliment to all the shooters already on the roster, and only open up their games even more. At six-foot-one, she also has enough size to play multiple positions, and help the Ducks on the defensive end. Look for Bigby to carve out a roll as a scoring spark off the bench for next year’s Lady Ducks team.

Kyei is relatively new to the game of basketball, only picking it up in the past four years. But what she lacks in experience, she makes up for in physical attributes. I mean, you just can’t teach six-foot-eight size. Now, that’s not to say she doesn’t have any ability. As you can see in the highlight video above, she shows good touch around the basket, and good timing on the defensive end blocking shots. Obviously, the competition and size of competition will ramp up at the next level, but it is a good place to start. She also has a very serviceable jump shot out to about 15 feet, which can be rare for players of her stature.

While we may not see too much of Kyei on the court this next season, it can only be good for her to go up against Sedona Prince every day in practice, and visa versa. She will be a player that Graves and his staff look to continue to develop over the coming years, and someone they hope can turn into a force for the Ducks in future seasons.

Overall, the outlook for next season is very promising, and once again looks to be one of Graves’ deepest teams he’s had while at Oregon. The key for them will be to find consistency on the offensive end, and use their strengths to their advantage. That is the size they have inside while in the half court, and their depth, shooting and athleticism in the open court.

I would like to see the Ducks look to press and turn teams over more, leading to fast breaks creating easy looks for shooters. Traditionally, Graves’ teams here at Oregon have played more of a half court game. But with potentially a nine or ten player rotation, and their struggles this past season in the half court, it might be in their best interest to create more opportunities before opposing defenses get set.

Sydney Parrish will look to make a big jump as a sophomore

Obviously, another key for this team will be the development of this past years freshmen, but most importantly, the development of Sydney Parrish and Angela Dugalic. Parrish is a player who will most likely step in and take the majority of the minutes vacated by Boley, which should lead to more production. Parrish is a player that can shoot, drive and create for others. We saw flashes of that this season, but it was obvious at times she was still adjusting to the speed and physicality of the game. As she gets more comfortable, she could be a consistent force for the Ducks.

Dugalic is a player that just creates matchup problems for other teams. Standing at six-foot-four, she has the size to play inside, but she also has the ball handling and shooting ability to play out out on the wing. She struggled a little bit shooting the ball this past season, but Graves has been adamant about how good of a shooter she is. If Dugalic is able to take the next step, she could have a similar type of role and impact to what Satou Sabally did during her time here, and would be a great complimentary piece to Prince and Nyara Sabally.

The Lady Ducks will once again be ranked among the best 10-15 teams going into next season. While they will still be relatively young, I would expect them to take the next step and compete for a conference championship. I can guarantee this team will not go 0-6 against the top teams of the PAC-12 like they did this year, and it would not surprise me at all if they are able to go even further into the NCAA Tournament. This is becoming a common theme for Graves’ teams, and I wouldn’t expect them to go anywhere but up in the foreseeable future.

Go Ducks!

Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo By Gary Breedlove

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