When you think about the most dominant women’s college programs in NCAA history, a few come to mind right away: UConn, Tennessee, South Carolina, Louisville, Stanford, Mississippi State…
In recent years, Oregon is up there too.
The rise of the Oregon women’s basketball program has been fun to watch that’s for sure. Seeing the Ducks ‘Big 3’ of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally take the team to the national stage year after year only to get robbed of a potential national championship to the coronavirus pandemic. Signing the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2020 featuring five five-star freshmen the very next year. And drawing more and more numbers to Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon to cheer on the team.
All these points have one common denominator: head coach Kelly Graves.
Graves was named the seventh head coach in program history on April 7, 2014. Since then, the Ducks have been to the Final Four, 3x Pac-12 champions and three players get selected in the top-8 of a WNBA Draft. Graves signed a contract extension that will keep him in Eugene, Oregon at least through the 2025-2026 season.
Graves’ impressive impact on the program didn’t just begin with the 2014-2015 team.
Former Oregon guard Edniesha Curry joined host Jordan Kent on the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast to discuss more on the rise for the Ducks program and Graves’ impact on those who came before him.
“I mean, that’s tradition,” said Curry. “That’s culture. What’s truly special about that I can remember when Coach Graves first got hired, him reaching out to all of us [alumni]. I got a call within a week of him saying ‘I want you guys to be a part of the program, I want you guys to come back when you can,’ the tweets, the texts.
“When he got hired, I was like ‘Oh yeah, the sky is the limit.’ It’s only a matter of time until we get a chance to raise the national championship trophy and I know that will come in the near future.”
Curry went on to explain the similarities between when she was a student-athlete at Oregon to today’s team.
The 5’6” guard from Palmdale, California spent the first two seasons of collegiate basketball at Cal State Northridge before two seasons at Oregon (2000-2002). Curry averaged 9.8 points per game and dished out 104 assists and received Pac-10 honorable mentions.
Back then, Curry explained that the crowds and support the Ducks received was similar to today. Curry said the Ducks never played a game in front of fewer than 10,000 fans (at then McArthur Court on campus). Last season, the Ducks played in front of multiple sellout crowds at Matthew Knight Arena - capacity 12,364).
Like Curry said above, it’s only a matter of time before the Ducks hang another banner in the gym, but this time for a national championship.