DUCKS PRO DEBUTS A BITTER REMINDER OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN – It was still good to see Oregon greats hoop it up on the next level

Three of the four faces that would be on Oregon women’s basketball Mount Rushmore all made their debuts in the WNBA this week. Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally, and Ruthy Hebard began their pro careers playing for their respective teams in the league’s bubble in Orlando.

And while we all regained a little bit of normalcy by watching live sports on television, watching those three Duck greats was also a stark reminder of what we lost this March.

We all lost the opportunity to watch the Ducks accomplish history by winning the program win its first-ever national title.

Sure upsets happen and March is full of madness as we all know, but even to the casual viewer, there is something different when you watch Sabrina lead, Ruthy doing the dirty work underneath and Satou doing her magical unicorn things on the floor.

It took Sabrina just one game to adjust to the different playing styles of the New York Liberty to dominate. After she made her debut with 12 points, four rebounds and six assists, numbers that would be great for any rookie playing their first professional game, but definitely not numbers she’s used to, Sabrina came out and took the game over in her second appearance.

Usually, when Sabrina takes a game over, that means curtains for the opponent. But this isn’t Oregon anymore. Despite her 33 points, seven boards, and seven assists, the Liberty went down in flames 93-80.  New York is  0-2 and it’s quite possibly Sabrina will face more losses this summer than her four years in Eugene.

Sabrina hasn’t changed, but the talent around her has. It’s just not as good as the talent she had in Oregon. Given the fact Oregon defeated Team USA, which is basically the WNBA all-star team, last year’s Duck team with Sabrina would have handled the Liberty.

Sabally’s first two games with the 1-1 Dallas Wings have gone what one would expect from her. She’s a steady force and when she needs to turn it up a notch, she can. Sabally turned in an 11-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist performance in her debut and then followed up with 12 points and four rebounds in the win over the Liberty. The Wings don’t need for Sabally to dominate to have a chance like the Liberty does with Sabrina, but Sabally will eventually have her games where she’s the standout.

As for Ruthy, the Chicago Sky is bringing her a bit slower than her two former teammates. Playing the post in a professional league is a lot different than it is in college. All the posts are as big or bigger than she is. But the Sky didn’t waste a first-round draft pick. She played just seven minutes and scored four points in her debut and logged in just six minutes and a rebound in Game 2.

With the pandemic raging, it seems like last year’s basketball season is so far behind us all, but watching those three play again, it was a reminder, despite what South Carolina’s Dawn Staley thinks, there was an excellent chance of us all seeing Oregon women’s basketball reach the pinnacle of the sport.

~ Don Smalley

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