Oregon’s Big 3 vying for history in WNBA draft
Friday when the New York Liberty select Sabrina Ionescu. The only question is how long it will take Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard to join her.
Oregon’s Big Three were in line for a possibly historic NCAA Tournament run, but those hopes were dashed when the sports world halted last month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their long term futures are going to be solidified in what could be historic fashion Friday night, though. Ionescu, Sabally and Hebard are all expected to be selected in the first round, with the Liberty and Dallas Wings expected to take Ionescu and Sabally with the first two picks. You can also buy custom WNBA jerseys for Sabally, or any Ducks players once you know which team has selected them during tonight’s draft.
“I don’t think ‘could be,’ I think it is going to be 1 2 and then I think with maybe some of New York’s moves Ruthy’s maybe moved up, we’ll see,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “I’ve had a lot of discussion I’ve actually had more phone calls about her than the other two. It just goes to show you how much talent we had on this team and there was a reason why we were so good. These were players that just don’t come along in a program very often. We’ve never seen anybody like Sabrina and Satou and Ruthy, for that matter. They’ve all rewritten the record books and I’m really happy for them. This is a dream come true, I know for all three and I have a feeling Minyon (Moore) is going to get picked up as well at some point.”
Should Ionescu and Sabally be picked back to back, it would be the first time teammates were drafted with the first two picks since UConn had three players go in order in the 2016 draft. If Hebard joins them in the first round, whether it be at No. 9 to New York or elsewhere, it will mark the fourth time in five years a team had three players come off the board in the first round.
Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve got a direct display of the high end talent of Ionescu, Sabally and Hebard when she coached Team USA in the preseason exhibition that the Ducks won in momentous fashion.
“I’m not sure I needed that night to tell me that,” Reeve said. “Certainly I think people used (it) as a measuring stick and that’s part of the reason for Oregon playing in that game, was to kind of allow their players to see how they measure up. It was a useful evaluation tool for sure, but I think with or without that game I think we had an idea of how special that Oregon group is.”
They’ll forever be linked in Oregon lore. The goat, the unicorn and the hammer changed the Ducks forever. The program went from off the grid to prime time. From sparse crowds to standing room only.
Their college careers will forever be incomplete through no fault of their own. A national championship banner won’t hang in the rafters of Matthew Knight Arena and when so much of the last year was spent trying to reach that goal first before eventually reaching Friday night’s embarkation into the professional basketball lexicon, there is naturally residual anguish.
## ## “It’s kind of hard to think about,” Ionescu said. “You come back to win a national championship and then you don’t win it and then you try and see if there was any regret. I would say it was probably one of the best decisions of my life to come back. Although there was many ups and downs through the year, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else besides there.
“Obviously one of the worst years of my life but also one of the best. Just being able to share that with the community, with the school, with my teammates for one last time was a blessing. I don’t regret anything about coming back to school, even though we didn’t end up winning a national championship.”
But Friday night is not about what might have been lost in celebrations in Portland, possibly New Orleans or even with the WNBA draft’s operations also altered into a virtual process rather than its usual gathering in New York.
There will be separate celebrations along the Pacific seaboard, from Hebard’s home in Fairbanks, Alaska, Sabally’s apartment near UO’s campus, Ionescu’s Walnut Creek, California, home and possibly across the Bay Area with Moore.
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