What Coulda (Shoulda) Been…and With the WORST Timing

Don Marsh Editorials

Having grown up Catholic, I am well-schooled in the fine art of self-flagellation. (Full disclosure…I considered wearing a hairshirt. I know, I know. Think how I feel.) My latest iteration of this pursuit is following all the former Duck women basketball players who have transferred out of the program and who are now playing on teams that qualified for The Big Dance.

Jaz Shelley struggled to find playing time for Coach Kelly Graves and transferred to Nebraska. Shelley had no such problem with the Huskers, she became a starter in 2022 and was named to the Big Ten All Defensive Team. Building on that performance, she was named the team’s MVP for the 2023 season. She had career best 13.7 ppg, 5 rpg and 1.4 blocked shots that year, while in 2024 and was named to the Big Ten All Tournament team.

I could write an entire article just listing and describing her accomplishments on the hardwood since her departure from Duckland, not the least of them would be to recognize that she was Academic All-Big Ten in 2023 and 2024.

For Sydney Parrish, Back Home Again, in Indiana, has indeed been oh-so-sweet. Hoosier Head Coach Teri Moren had no problem inserting Sydney into the starting lineup from day one, and never looked back. Parrish has been one of the go-to-players for Indiana and was Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2022-23.

Three time All-Pac-12 player Endyia Rogers decided to transfer to Texas A&M for her final year of eligibility. Rogers averaged 12PPG, and nearly 4 rebounds and assists per game for the Aggies.

It must have been somewhat satisfying for Lucy Cochrane to attend the Big Dance playing for University of Portland, while those little Duckies to the south all stayed home. After transferring from Oregon, Lucy sat out 2020-21 due to Covid-19. In 2021-22 Cochrane was All-WCC honorable Mention. In 2022-23 she was name to the Lisa Leslie Award watch list at the beginning of the season, which highlights the best centers in the NCAA Division I.

Te-Hina Paopao was a budding superstar who could already break down defenses early in her freshman year. (Photo by Gary Breedlove)

Early in the season, Cochrane and the Pilots destroyed the Lady Ducks by 31 points in what was a bit of a portent of what was to follow for the Lady Ducks. Cochrane scored 11 points and had 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocked shots in leading the Pilots to a stunning upset of Gonzaga to win the WCC title game and secure their spot in the NCAA tourney.

Of course, there is Te-Hina Paopao. I think we all know how this story unfolded. After three years with the Ducks, Te-Hina decided to follow Mark Campbell and play for Horned Frogs of TCU until she received a phone call from South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. And, as we say, the rest is history or more correctly, history still in the making as of this writing. By most accounts, Paopao has been the key-piece for Coach Staley in putting together the incredible run that has been the Gamecocks season-for-the-ages.

Clearly, we could write an entire article just on Te-Hina’s accomplishments. At 48.6% from beyond the arch, she is, at the end of the regular season, the nation’s top percentage 3-point shooter. She had a hand in 23.2% of all the Gamecock’s offense. She was named to the SEC’s second team All-SEC. Not sure who was doing the naming here, but someone should be held accountable. Hard for me to believe there were ten players in the SEC better than Te-Hina.

Just when things could not be getting any worse for lamenting Duck fans, Ms. Paopao announced that she will be returning to play her fifth year. Ouch. A recent piece on ESPN is worth a read. I found some of her comments on the culture of the South Carolina program particularly interesting, or perhaps even revealing relative to her time at Oregon and why she might have made the decision to leave the program.

Angela Dugalic played one season for the Ducks before transferring to UCLA. Angela battled injuries, but once healthy, became a starter for the Bruins and solid contributor. She had career best 9ppg, 6.6rpg and 2.1 apg. Angela helped lead the Bruins to a second-place finish in the conference this year as the team secured a No. 2 seed in the post-season.

Kelly Graves and Angela Dugalic. (Photo by Gary Breedlove)

Kylee Watson’s playing time, or the lack thereof, was always a head-scratcher for me while she was under the tutelage of Oregon Head Coach Kelly Graves. As a sophomore, she led the Ducks in shooting percentage but averaged just 16 minutes playing time a game. Watson transferred to Notre Dame after year-two with Oregon and this stat line jumped out at me. Through seven games at Notre Dame, Watson posted double-figure points four times.

She did so just four times total in two years at Oregon. In 2023, she led the team with 60.1 FG%. Her honors and awards at ND included 2023 Most Improved Award, All-ACC Academic Team, ACC regular season champion, and 2024 ACC Tournament champion. Oh, what coulda (shoulda) been.

Taylor Bigby saw very limited playing time in her one year with the Ducks. She transferred to USC where she has been a role-player for the Trojans helping them to a second-place PAC-12 (Not much longer for that phrase) finish and securing a number one seed in March Madness women’s version.

Here are three more ex-Ducks who played for teams that did not make the NCAA March Madness Bracket.

Chanaya Pinto may be a name not all that familiar to some Duck fans. She played her junior year here in Eugene and averaged 11.4 minutes per game and shot nearly 47% from the field. She transferred to Penn State and played two years for the Lady Lions putting up respectable numbers.

Sedona Prince never put it all together at Oregon. (Photo by Gary Breedlove)

Maddie Scheer was one of my favorites while she was at Oregon. I loved her energy and style of play. Through two seasons with the Ducks, she played in 53 games and started 32 of those. Her numbers were not gaudy at 3.7 ppg, 2.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds & 1.3 steals. However, after transferring to Kentucky in 2022-23, her production showed significant increase putting up 11.6 ppg, 5.1 rebounds, 4.3 apg & 2.1 steals. She continued to put up similar numbers this past season though the Wildcats has a tough season going 12-20 on the year.

And then there is Sedona Prince who transferred into Oregon highly touted out of Texas. Her career with the Ducks could perhaps be best described as inconsistent. With one year of eligibility remaining, Prince opted out for the WNBA draft. She reversed that decision once former Duck Women’s Coach Mark Campbell took the Head Coaching position at TCU. (Interesting that a second Duck, in addition to Te-Hina, chose to follow Campbell)

Certainly, fair to say Sedona’s career got resurrected playing with the Horn Frogs under Campbell’s tutelage. Injuries continued to plaque Sedona, but she put up career numbers. 19.7 ppg, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game.

Though she did not play college-ball this past season, (just in case you aren’t feeling bad enough yet) there was Taylor Mikesell, who had a good year at Maryland, an OK year with the Ducks and two spectacular seasons with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The decline of the Oregon women’s program could not have come at a worse time. College women’s basketball has never been more popular, and TV viewership is setting records numbers. The most expensive ticket to the March Madness finals is for the women’s games. It’s so unfortunate the Lady Ducks are not part of that national conversation.

Jaz Shelley and so many Ducks who did not realize their potential at Oregon. (Photo by Gary Breedlove)

If you had a chance to read my two previous posts on Women’s Basketball, you know my position here. And if you need some primers on current status of the program, check out (Is the System Blinking Red?)  and (Coach Graves…You ‘Thought We Played Well?’)

There were three losses this past season stand out for me, and one was the 31-point loss to the Portland Pilots on Nov 30th. Three days later, Ducks lost by 20 to the Baylor Bears in Waco and Grave’s postgame comment was, “I thought we played well.” And then there was the season ender to the Buffs of Colorado in the Pac12 tournament, 79-30. Oh my.

There is no question Kelly Graves has made significant contributions to women’s college basketball and specifically to the Oregon program. Further, there is no question he is genuinely nice person and decent human being. Maybe Athletic Director Rob Mullens is content to let this situation go forward and maybe Coach Graves can turn things around and Oregon Women’s Basketball returns to be part of the national discussion. I will be happy to write the “Egg on My Face” piece about how wrong I was.

Don Marsh
Eugene, Oregon
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