Oregon Ducks

Sabrina Ionescu pens letter to Oregon: ‘Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it’

Sabrina Ionescu pens letter to Oregon: ‘Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it’

Sabrina Ionescu could have chosen any day to write a letter to the Ducks community. 

But Monday, February 24 won’t go down as just any day for the Oregon women’s basketball star. It’s the day a public memorial will be held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles for Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were among nine killed in a tragic helicopter accident last month. 

Ionescu is expected to speak at the service before catching a flight north to rejoin her teammates in Palo Alto for a game against No. 4 Stanford. 

In a letter with The Players’ Tribune, Ionescu opened up about her decision to remain at Oregon to help build something special, and how without words, Kobe made it clear she had made the right decision. 

He saw the pressure that we were about to face this year as a privilege. A challenge to overcome. And the fact that it was scary to me at first?? He saw that as an opportunity. Harnessing your fear as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself — that’s Mamba Mentality 101. And I took it to heart.

Ionescu harnessed that Mamba Mentality this season with her Ducks team, who currently sit No. 3 in the women’s college basketball rankings. They’ve overcome a lot of challenges: shocking team USA, beating UConn and sweeping Oregon State. 

But no matter how the season finishes, Ionescu is proud of what she’s helped build at Oregon and the community who has rallied around her since the very beginning. 

It’s been a year I’ll remember forever, but it’s also been bittersweet. Because on one hand, I’m sitting here writing you this letter, Ducks Nation, and I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. I’m so proud of how we’ve met our expectations head-on, and contended for another Pac-12 title, and — even with this high-pressure target on our back — stayed right near the top of the polls all season long. I’m so proud of how we’ve put ourselves in the perfect position to reach our second straight Final Four, and beyond.

Ionescu will take the next step of her basketball journey without one of her biggest mentors, but she knows their two paths crossed for a reason. 

“Kobe always saw the bigger picture,” Ionsecu wrote. “That was clear with everything he did in his life — but to me it was especially clear with the way that he looked at and treated the game of women’s basketball. He didn’t see growing the game with girls as his hobby, or as some side project, or as a charity case. He saw it as a movement. And he didn’t get involved because he just wanted to be a fan of our movement. He got involved because he wanted to be a part of it.”

While the world mourns the loss of Bryant, Ionescu knows what Kobe and others have instilled in her is so much more than Mamba Mentality for girls, it’s Mamba Mentality, period. 

Oregon has a must-win game against No. 4 Stanford on Monday to clinch its third-straight Pac-12 title. If the Ducks come away victorious, Oregon will have the top seed heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. 

As Ionescu knows, there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

“Let’s go take that unfinished business and finish it.”

Report: College football could be played in Spring 2021 due to COVID-19

Report: College football could be played in Spring 2021 due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the sports world to come to a screeching halt with little end in sight.

This week, President Trump said that he wants to see spectators gathering at sporting events as soon as August or September, which would be in time for college football to begin on time, but whether that is a realistic goal remains to be seen.

However, if the season isn't ready to be played in the fall perhaps there's another option beyond canceling the entire season.

According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, a few coaches around the country and one administrator are considering moving the college football season from fall to the spring of 2021 to give teams more time to prepare for the season given their entire spring schedule has been ruined by the pandemic, and who knows if they will be able to have a normal training camp over the summer.  

Fellow writer Andy Staples further elaborated that the majority of schools need a college football season to be played in the 2020-2021 academic school year to fund nearly every other sport. 

The fact of the matter is that for most college athletic departments to survive as we know them, there needs to be a football season played at some point in the 2020-21 academic year. That doesn’t mean it has to be played on time. It just has to be played. That means you could finish up in late April or early May if you had to... No offense to the other sports, but football is the only college sport that needs to be played next school year. Everyone else’s job/scholarship relies on football. If no football gets played, football will come back. But... a lot of those other sports won’t come back.

Playing the season in the spring would bring up multiple questions, such as when would the NFL Draft be held. If the NFL doesn't want to push back their calendar then perhaps the NFL Draft can happen during the college football season as a one-time exception, but the NCAA would need to approve that. We all know the NCAA hardly ever makes the right calls when it comes to these sorts of things.  

Stewart Mandel speculates that it could eliminate the entire 2021 Draft class from playing because the NFL would not want to push back their draft. If that happened then there could be a lot of younger talent getting unexpected playing time next season. 

The Oregon Ducks are currently scheduled to have one of their most stacked home schedules in recent memory hosting Ohio State, Washington, Stanford, USC, and Arizona State. 

Oregon State is scheduled to travel to Stillwater to open their season at Oklahoma State.

If any non-conference games get canceled due to the pandemic, it would be up to the schools to reschedule in good faith. However, if the season just gets pushed back it should be likely teams would play the same teams just at a later date in the academic year. 

Ruthy Hebard wins Katrina McClain Award for Power Forward of the Year

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NBC Sports Northwest

Ruthy Hebard wins Katrina McClain Award for Power Forward of the Year

The postseason accolades keep raining in for the defending Pac-12 conference champion Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team.

For the second time in the past three seasons, Ruthy Hebard has been named the Katrina McClain Power Forward of the Year.

Hebard beat out Baylor's Lauren Cox, Florida State's Kiah Gillespie, Michigan's Naz Hillmon, and Princeton's Bella Alarie.

The 6-foor-4 senior from Fairbanks, Alaska averaged 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game during her senior season. She led the nation in field goal percentage (68.5) and is the NCAA record holder for consecutive field goals made with 33 in a row.

Hebard will finish a historical career in Eugene, Oregon as the No. 2 leading scorer (2,368 points), double-figure scoring games (123) and games played (144). The No. 1 leading scorer in Oregon women’s basketball history? Her counterpart and best friend, Sabrina Ionescu. The double-double machine (55 total, third in Oregon history) will also end her career No. 3 in Oregon history in rebounds (1,299).

Hebard first won the Katrina McClain award during her sophomore campaign, where she averaged 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. That 2017-18 season ended in a historic run to the Elite Eight.

Oregon's 'Big 3' of Ionescu, Hebard and Satou Sabally will wait to hear their names called during the 2020 WNBA Draft, coming up on April 17. Hebard has been projected somewhere between the No. 7 (Dallas) and No. 11 (Seattle) picks, according to the latest mock drafts. 

Satou Sabally wins Cheryl Miller Award as Nation's Top Small Forward

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USA Today Images.

Satou Sabally wins Cheryl Miller Award as Nation's Top Small Forward

After being named a finalist for the Cheryl Miller Award last season, Satou Sabally is finally taking home the hardware. 

Sabally was named Cheryl Miller Award winner on Monday, which recognizes the nation’s top small forward.

She topped UConn’s Megan Walker, Iowa State’s Ashley Joens, Kentucky Rhyne Howard and UCLA’s Michaela Onyenwere, who were finalists for the award. 

The junior made the decision to forgo her senior year and declare for the WNBA Draft after averaging 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in 2019. She is anticipated to be a top-four lottery pick. 

Sabally was named Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season, when she averaged 10.7 points and 3.8 rebounds. In 2018, she helped the Ducks advance to the Final Four for the first time in program history, before falling in the semifinals to the eventual champions, Baylor. 

Sabally, along with teammates Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard, were left with unfinished business this season. The Pac-12 champions hoped to avenge their Final Four loss, but the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the spread of COVID-19. 

Sabrina Ionescu tabbed Nancy Lieberman Award winner for third-straight year

Sabrina Ionescu tabbed Nancy Lieberman Award winner for third-straight year

Sabrina Ionescu has defended her title as the nation’s top point guard…again. 

Ionescu has just been named winner of the Nancy Lieberman award for a third-straight year. The award recognizes the top point guard in women’s Division I college basketball. To be considered for this prestigious award, candidates exhibit the floor leadership, playmaking and ball-handling skills of Class of 1996 Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.

Ionescu joins Sue Bird (2000-2002) as the second player in women’s NCAA history to win the award on three occasions. 

The Oregon star guard beat out UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield, South Carolina’s Tyasha Harris, Baylor’s Te’a Cooper and Rider’s Stella Johnson for the nod. This is Ionescu’s third season taking home the Lieberman award. She was also the recipient during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. 

Behind Ionescu’s 17.5 points, 8.6. rebounds and 9.1 assists per game, the Ducks won the Pac-12 regular season and conference tournament. Oregon was poised for another deep postseason run before its season came to a halt, as the NCAA announced it would suspend the March Madness tournament due to coronavirus concerns. 

Ionescu finished her career at Oregon with 2,562 points, 1,091 assists and 1,040 rebounds along with 26 career triple-doubles. She is expected to be the first pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft this month. 

Marcus Arroyo, former Ducks OC, has high praise for Justin Herbert

Marcus Arroyo, former Ducks OC, has high praise for Justin Herbert

Sending love all the way from Sin City, one of Justin Herbert's former coaches has some high praise for one of the NFL's top prospects. 

Marcus Arroyo spent three seasons at the University of Oregon as the team's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

From the sideline to the war room, no one knows Justin Herbert better than Coach Arroyo. 

Arroyo is now the head coach at UNLV, but he still has high praise for his former quarterback. 

Countdown is on for my man! Someone is about to get a great QB, but even a better person! - Marcus Arroyo

The NFL Draft is right around the corner, still scheduled to take place as planned starting April 23rd. 

Herbert is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the draft, likely to be a Top 10 pick on draft night. 

Most mock drafts have Herbert going either No.5 to the Miami Dolphins or No.6 to the Los Angeles Chargers. 

In four seasons as the Ducks quarterback, Herbert passed for 10,541 yards and 95 touchdowns. 

His passing touchdowns are the sixth most in Pac-12 history, and he finished just 255 behind Marcus Mariota for the most passing yards in Oregon history. 

The stats, and the eye test, back up Coach Arroyo - someone is about to draft a great quarterback. 

 

Payton Pritchard impressed by young boy's dribble challenge emulation

Payton Pritchard impressed by young boy's dribble challenge emulation

Even though his historic college career may be done, Payton Pritchard continues to make headlines, even from his garage in West Linn.

Last week, the all-time winningest player in Oregon basketball history went viral for his impressive dribbling skills.

After the video spread around the web, many other people started trying the 'Payton Pritchard' challenge' to show off their skills, including his teammate Will Johnson and little sister Lexie Pritchard.

[RELATED]: The 'Payton Pritchard Challenge' spreads through social media

After the challenge grew in popularity, Pritchard released his full dribbling routine to help out people trying to improve their skills. After all, this drill set the foundation for the player he's today; a winner of four OSAA 6A State Championships, a Pac-12 Champion three of four years in college, a Final Four finalist, and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year. 

Now after releasing his routine, we may have found the best one yet from seven-year-old Blake Swedberg. It was so good, even Pritchard himself gave the young baller some much-deserved recognition.

Pritchard finished his senior season as one of the nation's elite, averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. The West Linn native is one of just four players nationally who led his conference in both scoring and assists and became the fourth player in conference history to do so, joining Gary Payton (Oregon State, 1989-90), Damon Stoudamire (Arizona, 1994-95) and Jason Terry (Arizona, 1998-99).

Next up for Pritchard is preparing for the NBA Draft currently scheduled for June 25, 2020 but is likely to be pushed back. 

Chargers appear to have fallen in love, but is it with Justin Herbert?

Chargers appear to have fallen in love, but is it with Justin Herbert?

All offseason leading up the 2020 NFL Draft the Los Angeles Chargers have been mocked to take Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick, assuming that the Miami Dolphins take Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall.

[RELATED]: The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

However, that may be changing given recent reports. 

In the latest scouting notebook from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, he reports that the Chargers have their eyes on another senior quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft: Utah State's Jordan Love. 

For months we've heard the Chargers will draft whichever quarterback the Dolphins don't, which was believed to be between Tua and Herbert. That could still be the case, but in a conversation earlier this week, one very well-connected scout mentioned that Jordan Love is a name to watch here. That's something I reported during Senior Bowl week—that the Chargers had a crush on the Utah State quarterback—and it could be coming full circle.

That the Chargers started crushing on Love at the Senior Bowl is puzzling given that the former Ducks signal-caller was named both the MVP of the week of Senior Bowl practices and the Senior Bowl itself.

[RELATED]: Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert...

Also, Tua and Herbert have been the consensus second tier of quarterbacks all offseason with some teams even having Herbert over Tua due to less medical concerns.

That the Chargers could see Herbert as the fourth-best quarterback in the draft doesn't make too much sense, considering his stellar draft process from impressing at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and his pro day. Given the Chargers' roster they can compete for a Super Bowl with a good quarterback this upcoming season and Hebert will give them the best chance to do so if they take him at six.  This seems like when the Bears overthought the Mitchell Trubisky pick rather than taking Deshaun Watson who had way more college success. 

But, if the Chargers are considering targeting Love as their quarterback of the future it could indicate they want to take a defensive player like Clemson's Isaiah Simmons at sixth overall and then trade up for Love into the back of the first round or early second round. But what if they just think Love is their guy and take him at sixth overall? That possibility could have been what Todd McShay was banking on when he bet $5,000 with Mel Kiper Jr. that Love would be taken before Herbert in the upcoming draft. 

The 6-foot-4, 225 pound Love finished last season with 3,402 yards passing and 20 touchdowns with 17 interceptions, while the 6-foot-6, 237 pound Herbert passed for 3,417 yards for 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions. The Oregon quarterback also led the Ducks to a 12-2 record, a Pac-12 Championship, and a Rose Bowl Championship in his senior season.

We will find out where Justin Herbert will begin his professional career on April 23, when the NFL Draft may be going virtual

Tennessee Titans offer hollow farewell to Marcus Mariota in social media post

Tennessee Titans offer hollow farewell to Marcus Mariota in social media post

While it may not have ended like both sides hoped when the franchise spent the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on the Heisman winner, there also appears to be little bad blood.

After former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota officially signing with the Las Vegas Raiders to be the NFL's highest-paid backup quarterback, the Tennessee Titans posted to Instagram to thank the best player in Oregon football history.

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Mahalo Marcus. 🤙🏽

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The farewell gesture seems like a nice gesture at first glance. But, when you look at their other social media posts to other players, including Delanie Walker and Jurrell Casey, Marcus Mariota seems like an after thought. 

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A Titan Great ⚔️

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Casey received not one but two posts, one which was a full page quote from Titans GM Jon Robinson. 

Even Delanie Walker got a nice quote in his post. 

Marcus Mariota got the equivalent to "it is your birthday" written on a cake. 

Sure, Mariota's time didn't pan out how both parties expected. He showed flashes throughout his professional career, including an impressive sophomore campaign when he threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with a career-best 7.9 yards-per-attempt until a broken leg ended his season. His junior season saw massive regression as he threw 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while playing through a hamstring injury. That regression would continue into his fourth season under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. 

Mariota had a 29-32 record in 61 games as a starter with 13,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions.

Then he was benched and was considered the scapegoat for the Titans problems. Still, after being benched, Mariota was a consummate professional until the end. Head coach Mike Vrabel praised Mariota's professionalism throughout the season. Basically, Vrabel was just happy Mariota didn't make his life difficult. 

Mariota signed with the Las Vegas Raiders where he hopes to find stability while getting a chance to compete for the starting position in Las Vegas, but he knows that it is David Carr's team going in.

[RELATED]: Marcus Mariota reveals why he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders

Mariota deserved more. He deserved better. And hopefully he'll get that with the Raiders.  

Sabrina Ionescu explains the worst part of the season getting cancelled

Sabrina Ionescu explains the worst part of the season getting cancelled

Early on Friday morning, Sabrina Ionescu once again did something no one in an Oregon uniform has ever done before.

Ionescu became the first player from Oregon to win the Naismith Trophy for the National Player of the Year.

The 2020 Naismith Trophy winner jumped on a video chat with CBS Sports and the Naismith presenters to accept the award.

This was truly a historic year for Ionescu: First player to reach 2,000+ points, 1,000+ assists and 1,000+ rebounds; NCAA leader in career triple-doubles (26); spoke at her dear friend Kobe Bryant’s memorial; completely changed the game of basketball forever…

When looking back on such a terrific season in Eugene, Ionescu listed these highlights specifically that stood out to her. Typical Ionescu, they are all team highlights, not individual.

- Beating Team USA. Who could have forgotten that? The Ducks defeated the best professional players in the country, 93-86 on their home court of Matthew Knight Arena back in early November. It was only an exhibition game, but it was a win that set the tone for the rest of the season.

- Beating Stanford. Not one, not two, but three times this season, the Ducks handled the Cardinal. Once at home, once on the road, and once in the Pac-12 Tournament Finals.

- Civil War champs. This was a first for the Kelly Graves - Sabrina Ionescu era who had never won in Corvallis. Oregon beat in-state rival Oregon State twice in Pac-12 conference play.

- Pac-12 Tournament Champs. Oregon took care of business during Pac-12 play and took care of business at the Pac-12 Tournament. 

This team was different. It may have started with Ionescu, but the talent ran deep and will continue to do so for years to come. 

When asked what Ionescu loved most about this special season and this special team, she had nothing but love for her teammates.

We were so close. Every single player loved every single player. We played for each other and I think going through those ups and downs of the year, we grew together. And so, being able to play alongside them was a blessing and it’s definitely the worst part not being able to play anymore is just not being able to play with them. — Sabrina Ionescu