After a historic season, Oregon Women’s Basketball has their eye on a National Championship.
A lot happened during the offseason: Four of the Ducks had the honor of representing the USA in the FIBA 3X3 World Cup, a slew of bench players transferred after last year’s successful season, and a couple highly rated freshman joined the team.
So, without further ado, let’s break down this stacked roster.
We’ll start off with the the leader of the team and last season’s Point Guard of the Year winner, Sabrina Ionescu. She can hit the three. she can drive it to the hoop, and she can pass the ball to anyone from anywhere on the court; the junior is possibly the best player in women’s college basketball. Sound too good to be true? Check out her resume: PAC-12 Freshman of the Year, PAC-12 Tournament MVP, two-year ALL-PAC-12, Wooden Award Finalist, First team All-American, and the record holder for most career triple-doubles with 10.
Despite her plethora of awards, Ionescu is far from satisfied. Both of the junior’s trips to the Big Dance ended at the elite eight- first to powerhouse Connecticut then to ‘17 champion Notre Dame. Ionescu’s focus and competitive spirit is well known around Eugene and nothing but a National Championship will suffice.
With so much accomplished in just two seasons, it’s fun to think about the potential of this Duck squad led by Ionescu. Her greatness is already solidified and with up to two years of eligibility left and the state of Oregon on her side, anything is possible.
Of course one great player alone does not make a great team. One of the things that makes Ionescu so effective is the elite talent surrounding her, specifically junior Ruthy Hebard.
Just like Ionescu, Hebard also possesses a ridiculously impressive resume: National Power Forward of the Year, two time All-PAC-12, set an NCAA record for both men’s and women’s basketball for consecutive field goals made with 33 straight, the list goes on.
The chemistry between Ionescu and Hebard is what makes this team so dangerous offensively. When Ionescu is hitting her shots, which is far more often than not, teams are forced to double team her, and if Hebard is one-on-one in the paint she will score! The first game of the season will provide a unique experience for Hebard as she gets to play in her hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska.
One of two seniors on the team, Maite Cazorla has the perfect combination of skills to compliment the Ducks’ lethal duo of Hebard and Ionescu. Last season, the Spaniard averaged 10.9 points, 4.8 assists, shot 38.9 percent from three and 48.6 percent overall. Her basketball IQ is one of this team’s greatest strengths, and her selfless play allows her to recognize when she needs to pass to a player on a hot-streak or find an open shot.
When this team is firing on all cylinders the point of attack is constantly shifting to the open play-maker, that is in large part due to the steady play of Cazorla, who is 82 assists away from breaking the great Lauri Landerholm’s assist record at Oregon (607 career assists.)
If it’s true that a collegiate player improves their game most in the jump from freshmen to sophomore year then we should expect a lot from Satou Sabally. Last year she earned PAC-12 Freshman of the Year and became a starter against Weber State on December 2nd.
With the departure of legendary three-point shooter Lexi Bando, Sabally has an opportunity to carve a role for herself as Oregon’s go to corner triple shooter. She’s shown flashes of deep-shot accuracy, particularly during the Ducks overtime win against UCLA in which she hit 7 of 9 shots from beyond the arc. Giving Cazorla and Ionescu a reliable passing option to the corner will do wonders for Oregon’s already strong game within the paint.
The final projected starter will make her official debut at Matt Knight but has already built chemistry with the other starters. After deciding to transfer from Notre Dame, the redshirt sophomore sat on the Ducks’ bench due to transfer rules, but the FIBA 3X3 World Cup gave her the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with Ionescu, Hebard, and Oti Gildon.
Though the Ducks lost a lot of talent during the offseason, Boley has the talent and size to make this team even more offensively sound if she continues to shoot the three well; for reference, she was 39.5% (47-of-119) from three-point range at Notre Dame.
With the departure Mallory McGuire, Senior Oti Gildon is likely to receive the majority of minutes from the bench. If it weren’t for the stellar play of Ruthy Hebard, Gildon would be a starter on this team. Still, her importance to the Ducks cannot be overstated, because having the ability to rest Hebard without a major drop off in points or rebounds will play a huge role during conference play.
Injuries during her freshmen and sophomore seasons limited the 6’6 Seattleite’s playing time, but Kelly Graves had plenty of positive things to say about Giomi.
“Lydia has such an amazing future ahead of her. In my 29 years as a coach, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player with her combination of length and athleticism and her desire to achieve at a high level. She runs the floor like a guard, shows a real understanding of defensive positioning and I love that she is so vocal on the floor. I think defensively she’ll make a huge impact early and, as her offensive game develops, watch out!”
- Coach Kelly Graves on the Go Ducks site
After sitting out her sophomore year due to a back injury, the 5’10 guard from Adelaide, Australia appeared in 33 games her freshman year and will most definitely be asked to relieve Cazorla and Ionescu during blowout victories and even for short spurts in competitive games.
For fans that are still lamenting the departure of Aina Ayuso, fear not, for Taylor Chavez has arrived. Rated the No. 61 recruit in the nation, the 5’10 guard from Surprise, Arizona averaged 23.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 5.3 steals during her senior season at Monsoon and led her team to their second straight 6A state championship. We’ll see how quickly the freshman can adapt to the collegiate level.
Nyara Sabally has the talent to recreate or even exceed older sister Satou’s first year success, but it’ll have to wait until next year. The 6’4 forward from Berlin is healing from a surgery-requiring knee injury suffered during the FIBA U18 European Championship Game against Spain. If all goes according to plan, Nyara should have a lot of next year’s PAC-12 teams asking, “wait, there’s two of them?”
FIRST UP: ALASKA FAIRBANKS
11/6, 8 PM, UAF LIVE STREAM
(BONUS VIDEO: ENTER COACH KELLY GRAVES’ HAUNTED HOUSE!)
Did you think we were going to let Halloween go by without paying a visit to the king of spooky szn? @OregonWBB head coach @GoDucksKG turns his home into a haunted house every year, and this time, we were there to catch all the sights and scares for ourselves. pic.twitter.com/gK2TpIpHn9— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 1, 2018