Feb 23, 2017
When Kelly Graves took over the helm of the Oregon women’s basketball program, he had a lot of work to do.
Sure, Nike is ever present and provides the team with the latest and greatest in apparel and equipment, but previous coach Paul Westhead’s run and gun style left a program with only a modicum of success, and a culture that did not emphasize fundamentals and defense.
Three years in to the Graves era, and the Ducks are entering the final weekend of the regular season with an 18-10 overall record (8-8 in conference), tied with Arizona State for fifth in the very strong Pac-12 and in the NCAA tournament per the latest ESPN bracketology.
Perhaps most impressive about Oregon’s success is the fact this team is so young. They start three freshmen, a sophomore, and a junior.
The combination of post Ruthy Hebard and point guard Sabrina Ionescu may be the best freshman duo in the country.
Hebard, from Alaska, leads the team in scoring (14.9 per game), rebounding (8.6 per game), and field goal percentage (64.9 percent). Ionescu is second in scoring (13.9 per game), second in rebounding (7.0 per game), and first in assists (5.7 per game), plus has registered four triple-doubles already this year.
As Graves points out in this week’s Dishin & Swishin podcast, consider that Ionescu is playing in a conference absolutely loaded with quality point guards night after night, including Kelsey Plum (Washington), Sydney Wiese (Oregon State), Jordin Canada (UCLA), and Kennedy Leonard (Colorado). It makes her accomplishments all the more impressive.
This weekend Oregon hosts Cal on Friday and Stanford on Sunday. Tournament seedings are in play for all of the top six teams in the conference. Stanford is tied with Oregon State for first, one game ahead of Washington. UCLA seems locked in to the four spot, and Arizona State will duel with Oregon for five and six. No matter what happens this weekend, the “Spectacle in Seattle” as Graves called it (and wants copyright fees on it) in Key Arena will be fun.
It is always great to catch up with Coach Graves. Topics range from the Pac-12 strength and the youthful aggressiveness of his team, to the PK80 tournament and playing east coast opponents in the future, to what outfits to wear as team and coach when Nike hooks your team up with gear.
If you are on the east coach like me, be sure to set your alarm clocks for some late night hoops on Pac-12 network, because it is going to be a busy weekend!
Enjoy the podcast!