The NCAA will tell you that most college student athletes will “go pro” just not in a sport. And while this is true, Duck fans are lucky to have some really excellent former players who have gone on to compete at the highest levels of their respective sports. Over the summer, ATQ will provide readers with updates on what and how some of your favorite Ducks are doing in their pro careers.
Payton Pritchard - Pritchard plays for one of the most storied franchises in NBA history - the Boston Celtics. His first season - 2020-21 - saw Pritchard used in a backup role most of the season. He ultimately played in 66 games and started 4 games. He averaged 19 minutes and scored 7.7 points per game matching his freshman output in Eugene.
In the 2021-22 season, Pritchard has continued in a backup role, and seen his minutes drop a bit, to 13 per game. His scoring averaged also dropped - to 6.6 ppg - but was actually a bit higher per minute played. The Celtics have had a great season, reaching the NBA Finals. Game 6 of that series against the Golden State Warriors happens tonight in Boston, with the Warriors leading in the series 3 - 2. Pritchard is 2 wins away from a championship ring, and after owning Washington and earning the nickname The Mayor of Seattle during his college days, may be able to add the greater Bay Area to his responsibilities.
Sabrina Ionescu - After returning to Oregon for her senior season to try to complete “unfinished business,” Ionescu was beaten only by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which caused the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament that year. Ionescu is the all-time leader in college triple-doubles and the only player ever to score 2000 points, grab 1000 rebounds and dish out 1000 assists during a college basketball career.
After this sterling collegiate career, the New York Liberty made Ionescu the #1 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft. She got off to a quick start, averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, but Ionescu injured her ankle in only her third WNBA game and was lost for the remainder of the season.
The 2021 season was a full one for Ionescu, as she started 26 games for the Liberty. While her points-per-game average dropped to 11.7, her rebounding and assists both improved.
Congratulations @sabrina_i20 for being named @WNBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week! The honor is Ionescu’s second of her career.— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) June 13, 2022
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The current WNBA season has seen Ionescu bounce back. She is averaging 17.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game after 12 games. In a game against the Chicago Sky last weekend, Ionescu recorded her first triple-double of the season, scoring 27 points, with 13 rebounds and 12 assists in a close loss and was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Her season high in points was 31 against Minnesota. The Liberty are 5 - 9 on the season. Ionescu’s next game is today at 4:00 pm against the Washington Mystics but there is no live coverage.
Ruthy Hebard - Hebard was Ionescu’s teammate and close friend while they were at Oregon. Hebard was a huge inside presence for the Ducks and averaged 16.4 points and 9 rebounds per game in Eugene.
Hebard was also taken in the 2020 WNBA draft, picked #8 by the Chicago Sky. She has appeared in 63 games in a limited role for the Sky over 2+ seasons. She has averaged about 15 minutes per game over her WNBA career. This season, Hebard has averaged 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. The Sky are 9 - 4 overall, and in third place in the league. The Sky’s next game is Friday at 5:00 pm and is available on Facebook.
Satou Sabally - After playing two seasons for the Ducks and being named to the All-Pac-12 team as a Sophomore, Sabally is in her third season with the Dallas Wings in the WNBA. She has appeared in 33 total games and averaged 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. She was on the 2020 Associated Press All Rookie team and was also named to the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game. Following her second WNBA season, Sabally signed to play for Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Super League where she led the team in rebounding in an undefeated 26 - 0 season and won the League Championship. Following that success, Hebard agreed to one more season with the Turkish club. It goes without saying that there is some risk (although there shouldn’t be) in playing overseas which is something of a necessity for some WNBA players for financial reasons. With the Phoenix Mercury’s Brittney Griner being unlawfully detained by the Russian government for 4 months based on a tenuous drug possession charge, these risks while perhaps not widespread cannot be ignored. As a Muslim, Sabally should have many fewer concerns in her overseas posting.
In the current WNBA season, Sabally missed the first 5 regular season games due to her overseas action but is now back in Dallas and is averaging 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. She is currently listed as questionable with a knee injury but could return for the Wings next game against the Phoenix Mercury on Friday. That game will be available on Twitter.
Oregon’s athletes continue to impress at the top of their respective sports. Join ATQ as we follow these and other Ducks throughout their professional seasons.