Two-time Big Ten conference champion, sharp-shooter Taylor Mikesell transfers to Oregon

Two-time Big Ten conference champion, sharp-shooter Taylor Mikesell transfers to Oregon

*This article has been updated with the official signing news from head coach Kelly Graves and the Oregon women's basketball team on Thursday, May 21.

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One of the nation’s best three-point shooters is on her way to Eugene, Oregon.

Several elite women’s college basketball stars who want that chance at a national title elect to transfer to make that happen. They go to a place with national attention and eyes on the program to better their chances getting selected in the WNBA Draft. Programs like UConn, South Carolina, Baylor, formerly Tennessee, Louisville, offer that opportunity to do so.

However, that dream destination for so many players lately is Oregon.

This was the case for Minyon Moore, who used her final year of collegiate eligibility to transfer from USC to Oregon. DiJonai Carrington, who is currently in the NCAA transfer portal, is also considering Oregon for her next chapter after spending most of her basketball career at Stanford.

Maryland transfer Taylor Mikesell is the next elite player to make this choice.

The 5-foot-11 guard entered the NCAA transfer portal on April 16, 2020 and exactly one month later, Mikesell has chosen the Oregon Ducks.

I want to win a national championship. I haven’t done that yet, but I have won two conference championships [at Maryland]. — Taylor Mikesell told 247sports’ Erik Skopil

Coming out of high school, Mikesell was the nation’s No. 32 overall player and No. 9 point guard, according to ESPN.

Here’s a glimpse at Mikesell’s accolades from her two years at Maryland:

FRESHMAN YEAR (2018-2019)

- Averaged 13.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while shooting .411 from three-point range. Led the nation in made three-pointers in 2018.

- Ended a spectacular freshman campaign being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year as well as All-Big-Ten Freshman Team.

SOPHOMORE YEAR (2019-2020)

- Averaged 11.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting .425 from three-point range.

- Named All-Big-Ten Honorable Mention as well as All-Big-Ten Academic.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE DUCKS

We now enter the ‘What will the Ducks look like without Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally’ era in Eugene, Oregon. While this past four-year epic run may never be repeated, it’s time to turn the page and see how head coach Kelly Graves can put together all these new pieces.

And with a weapon like Mikesell now on his team, Oregon’s offense just may remain at an elite level. 

The arsenal of shooters Graves now has to work with is almost laughable: Erin Boley, .441 from 3-PT range; Jaz Shelley, .420 from 3-PT range; Taylor Chavez, .474 from 3-PT range, and that’s potentially 3/5 of the starting lineup right there. Having those kind of weapons on the outside will force the defense to space out and make more room for players like Sedona Prince, Nyara Sabally and Lydia Giomo down low.

Likely, Mikesell will have to sit out a year due to the NCAA transfer rule, but that doesn't mean she and the Ducks won't petition for immediate eligibility.

Looks like Mikesell’s future teammate Sedona Prince is also pretty excited about the move:

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest GoDucks.com editor-in-chief Rob Moseley.

Ruthy Hebard’s mom still does her hair and that's the way Ruthy wants it

Ruthy Hebard’s mom still does her hair and that's the way Ruthy wants it

The day in the life of an athlete is no easy task. Waking up constantly before the sun, multiple workouts, practices, team meetings, studying endless hours of film, oh and trying to squeeze an education in there too. 

This was Ruthy Hebard’s life throughout her collegiate career at Oregon.

Her same work ethic has stemmed from her mom. Not her biological mom, but from the wife and husband who adopted Ruthy at just four days old from Chicago and moved to Fairbanks, Alaska. This is Dorothy and John Hebard, and they are both white.

Family isn’t always defined by blood. 

At an early age, Ruthy was faced with a problem. 

“When you’re an eight-year-old black girl living in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the one thing you want more than anything else in the entire world is a head full of pretty braids, it can be… a problem,” said Hebard in a letter written to the Players’ Tribune on Friday, May 8.

Dorothy spent hours and hours studying film on braiding tutorials YouTube, just as Ruthy studied her basketball opponents. Dorothy found herself a coach and perfected her craft. Ruthy placed her trust in Oregon women’s basketball head coach Kelly Graves and by the time her collegiate career came to a close, led the nation in field goal percentage (68.5).

On this Mother’s Day weekend, the former Oregon basketball star now in the WNBA with Chicago Sky, dedicated this letter to her mom. 

“My dad was always the one who would be fired up and get on the refs for missed calls. And my mom? She wasn’t as intense, but her thing was always about me having fun. She’d always be checking in with me to make sure I was enjoying myself. Every time I’d look up into the stands, I’d always see her clapping and cheering. And any time I fell, or rolled my ankle and went down, by the time I gathered myself and looked up, she’d be on the court standing right above me.

It was always amazing to me — like she was a superhero or something. Like that was her thing. Her superpower was racing to help me if I needed her. And you know what, I was never embarrassed by that. Not even a little bit.

It always just reminded me of what a wonderful person she is, and just how much she loves me.”

You can read the full letter here.

Ruthy will now head back to the first city she ever lived in, given that it was only four days, to continue her basketball career. You better believe that if she ever needs a hair change up, she’ll be calling up her mom.

“To this day, when I’m with my mom, I won’t let anyone other than her do my hair. And no matter where I go, or what I do, or how much money I do or don’t have, I’m always going to have her be the one to do my hair, no matter what.”

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all the moms out there!

Kelly Graves would entertain the idea of going back to coaching men's basketball

Kelly Graves would entertain the idea of going back to coaching men's basketball

Kelly Graves has built the Oregon women’s basketball program into a national power, a team that had a great chance to win a national championship, if it would have had the chance to do so this season.

Has it ever crossed your mind if he would have the same success coaching a men’s team?

Well, it’s crossed his mind.

And he seems to think he could pull it off. After all, as he says, coaching is all about relationships. And he seems to be pretty good with those.

Coaching is coaching. Relationship building is relationship building. That's all coaching is. X's and O's are one thing, a lot of people can do that, but it's building relationships with your players so that they'll do anything for you as a coach. -- Kelly Graves

So if Oregon men’s coach Dana Altman someday decides to take another job or just retire, would Graves entertain the idea of coaching the Ducks’ men’s team?

Well, you can hear him break it down for you in the accompanying video.

Be sure to listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.

Kelly Graves' journey from plowing potatoes to growing basketball programs

Kelly Graves' journey from plowing potatoes to growing basketball programs

Kelly Graves has become a coaching icon at the University of Oregon in just five years.

During that time, he has transformed the Duck women’s team into a national powerhouse, while first recruiting and then coaching Sabrina Ionescu, who won every player-of-the-year award possible this season.

And he turned that program around rapidly, just as he did at the other stops along the way in his coaching journey to Eugene, Oregon.

Where did this man come from? How did he start? Was his wish always to coach women?

Well, Graves’ trip to coaching success is surprising and interesting. He didn’t serve an apprenticeship under a big-time coach or learn his craft at a blue-chip program. He was more of a small-town guy who played his own basketball at a junior college in Idaho and then at New Mexico. He got his coaching start at Big Bend CC in Moses Lake, Wash., and I think it’s fair to say that’s not exactly the cradle of coaches. And he was coaching men, not women.

But you’re going to want to hear Graves tell his own story, complete with video, of his days on campus when he had both hair and a Wendy’s cheeseburger commercial.

And he’ll even surprise you a little bit, perhaps, with his answer to a question about someday coaching a men’s team.

This really wasn’t an interview, it was just a conversation between two bald guys. And I think you will love it.

Be sure to listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.

Landing Stanford grad transfer DiJonai Carrington would make Oregon immediate title contenders

Landing Stanford grad transfer DiJonai Carrington would make Oregon immediate title contenders

DiJonai Carrington is looking for a new home and opportunity for what could be her final season of collegiate basketball. 

The Stanford Cardinal 5-foot-11 guard averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds her junior year (2018-2019) before a knee injury limited her to just five games this past season. Carrington has immediate eligibility wherever she decides to go and has listed UConn, Baylor and Oregon as her likely destinations. 

Her older brother is former Oregon football wide receiver Darren Carrington, so there is a connection to Eugene, Oregon and the Ducks.

The last time Oregon women’s basketball faced Stanford with a healthy Carrington was back on March 10, 2019 in the Pac-12 Tournament final. Stanford defeated Oregon 64-57 and Carrington recorded 22 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.

ESPN recently compiled a list grading the best players currently in the NCAA transfer portal. Carrington was second on that list behind former Oregon State guard Destiny Slocum, who has decided to transfer to Arkansas. 

…a healthy Carrington could potentially alter the national championship picture. As a junior in 2018-19, she averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds. She has 3-point range, but her fearless attacking the basket or rebounds sets her apart. — Graham Hays

Carrington wouldn’t be the first grad transfer to have Oregon as a likely destination. 

Last season, Minyon Moore did the same thing, using her last year of collegiate eligibility at Oregon after spending three seasons at USC, another Pac-12 foe. While everyone’s decision to transfer is a bit different, Moore wanted the opportunity to play with a program that had the best chance of a deep NCAA Tournament run and one that supported the women’s basketball team equally among the “bigger” collegiate sports like football and men’s basketball.

When I was looking for a home for my last year, I really wanted to be apart of a community that supported their women’s basketball team like colleges support their football and men’s basketball teams. And you guys go beyond those expectations. — Minyon Moore on senior day

Moore wanted to go somewhere where she would get noticed on the court. Oregon women’s basketball had a lot of eyes on them this past season. 

Landing Carrington would be huge for the program who lost its core “big 3” to the WNBA this past season: The James E. Sullivan Amateur Athlete of the Year co-winner Sabrina Ionescu was selected No. 1 overall to the New York Liberty; Satou Sabally was drafted No. 2 overall to the Dallas Wings; and Ruthy Hebard drafted No. 8 overall to the Chicago Sky.

Adding Carrington into the mix puts Oregon back at the top.

ESPN released the way too early AP Poll rankings for the 2020-2021 season and Oregon was ranked third in the Pac-12 Conference behind Stanford and Arizona and No. 11 nationally. 

The biggest question coming into next season is how would the Ducks look without Ionescu, Sabally, Hebard and Moore in the lineup. Oregon returns just one starter, Erin Boley, next year, but Jaz Shelley and Taylor Chavez could have started for any Division-1 school last season, and we finally get to see Sedona Prince unleashed. Head coach Kelly Graves has also signed the No. 1 recruiting class for the 2020 season and a deep, talented bench to work with. A lot of new, moving pieces to fit the puzzle. 

But adding Carrington into the mix would solidify the Ducks dominance once again.  

Be sure to listen to the latest Talkin' Ducks Podcast with jost Jordan Kent and special guest Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.

Why Oregon WBB will be just fine next season despite losing four of five starters

Why Oregon WBB will be just fine next season despite losing four of five starters

It is officially official. Three Oregon Ducks have found new homes in the WNBA. 

Sabrina Ionescu was selected No. 1 overall by the New York Liberty; Satou Sabally was selected No. 2 overall by the Dallas Wings; and Ruthy Hebard was selected No. 8 overall by the Chicago Sky. 

These three were the backbone of the Oregon women’s program for the past three years in Eugene, Oregon and a huge part of their success. The program rose to national recognition and dominance highlighted by the most decorated player in collegiate basketball history, Ionescu. 

Now that they have played their last game in an Oregon uniform and are getting ready for, hopefully, a WNBA season, let’s look ahead to Eugene and the 2020-2021 season.

The Ducks will lose four of their five starters next year. It’s not impossible to have a repeat season of success, but it will look and feel much different without Ionescu, Sabally and Hebard on the court. 

But if any team could do it, it would be the Ducks and head coach Kelly Graves, who signed the No. 1 recruiting class of 2020-2021 featuring five, five-star players who all won the Player of the Year in their respective states.

Be sure to check out the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck:

Ahead of the 2020 WNBA Draft, Hebard met with members of the media over Zoom where she was asked about next year’s squad and the potential Oregon has for success: 

They’re gonna kill it. Lydia [Giomi] is gonna kill and and she’s such a good role model and she’s been there. I know she’s going to be the best teacher for all the young kids. Sedona [Prince] is crazy and going to be fine. I’m so excited to see Nyara [Sabally] play… They’re all so ready to play already and I’m just really excited to see them. I know they’re going to kill it. — Ruthy Hebard

And it all starts with Graves.

Hebard and Graves spent four seasons together and through that time, Hebard has been a sponge for everything Graves has to offer and now she feels prepared to enter into the next chapter of her basketball career in the WNBA.

He has a great system and he’s a great coach. He never tells you what you want to hear and that’s really nice because you know what you’re doing wrong and you also know what you’re doing right and what’s going to work. I think he’s always treated us like pros in multiple ways… His system and the way we played the game is going to translate well to the pro level. - Ruthy Hebard on Coach Graves

We’ll have to wait and see how Graves can lead the Ducks - without their Big 3 - next season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’re confident the Pac-12 Coach of the Year has something up his sleeve.

ATTN WNBA: Oregon’s Minyon Moore is still out there

ATTN WNBA: Oregon’s Minyon Moore is still out there

As the 2020 WNBA Draft night came to a close, it was a historic event for the Oregon women’s basketball team. 

After finishing at the top of the Pac-12 Conference, led by their ‘Big 3’ of Sabrina Ionescu (No. 1 to the New York Liberty), Satou Sabally (No. 2 to the Dallas Wings), and Ruthy Hebard (No. 8 to the Chicago Sky), and finishing the shortened season with a final No. 2 national ranking, there was one name that was not called that deserves a lot of the credit for Oregon’s success last year.

Minyon Moore.

The defensive specialist that wreaked havoc on opposing guards was left without a home to call in the WNBA. At least for now. 

Moore was a projected mid-late third round draft pick, but ultimately did not receive the call. While Moore was a menace on the defensive end of the court, it was likely her lack of offensive threat that did not turn the WNBA’s eyes her way. 

This brings up a good opportunity to hopefully advocate for more opportunities in the future for women’s basketball at the professional level. 

What happens to all that talent that doesn’t make a WNBA roster?

The WNBA Draft is three rounds, 36 total selections. That’s 36 out of thousands of players in NCAA women’s basketball. The chances of being selected as one of those 36 is slim. 

Before the draft, analyst Rebecca Lobo and reporter Holly Rowe held a phone press conference with members of the national media to talk about the upcoming draft:

It’s the hardest professional league to make in terms of the percentage of people that play. There’s 144 jobs when every team is carrying a full roster. Beginning this season, not every team will be carrying a full roster of 12. A couple [teams] will have to have 11 until a certain point of the season when the salary cap will allow them to fit 12. It is very, very difficult to make a WNBA roster, even more difficult for a second round pick or a third round pick to make it. — Rebecca Lobo

A lot of players will look overseas for playing opportunities at the professional level. 

Or some look to open tryouts. After registering for the open tryouts, you are allowed to try out in front of all the coaches. From here, the original group is whittled down to a smaller group who are then asked back for an additional tryout. The ultimate goal is to get an invitation to training camp.

We just hope that some team will give Moore that opportunity because we all know what she can do on the court.

Ruthy Hebard has her next Sabrina Ionescu in Chicago's Courtney Vandersloot

Ruthy Hebard has her next Sabrina Ionescu in Chicago's Courtney Vandersloot

With the 8th pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft, the Chicago Sky select Ruthy Hebard, forward from the University of Oregon.

Although the stars didn’t quite align for a Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard reunion in New York, the Chicago Sky just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to select the Katrina McClain National Power Forward of the Year.

And with good reason! Hebard led the nation in field goal percentage last season (68.5) and was a force on both ends of the court. Against Team USA and some of the best players in the WNBA, Hebard recorded another double-double, something she did quite often at Oregon, finishing with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

The Sky finished fifth overall in 2019 with a 20-14 record and just missed out on the WNBA playoff semifinals. 

Hebard may not have Ionescu next season, but she just may have the next best thing: Courtney Vandersloot.

Vandersloot was coached by none other than head coach Kelly Graves during her collegiate career at Gonzaga. The 5-foot-8 nine-year veteran guard is an All-WNBA First Team member in 2019 and two-time WNBA All-Star (2019, 2011). 

She finished the 2019 season averaging a WNBA-record 9.1 assists in 33 games and just re-signed a multi-year contract to remain in Chicago.

To have the All-WNBA First Team point guard and MVP candidate coming back to lead our ball club is huge for us. Last season was an incredible season for her and the Sky, so we’re looking forward to Sloot leading us to achieve our goals this season. — Chicago head coach James Wade

The Vandersloot-Hebard connection will be one to watch next season. 

Ruthy Hebard selected No. 8 to the Chicago Sky in the 2020 WNBA Draft

Ruthy Hebard selected No. 8 to the Chicago Sky in the 2020 WNBA Draft

With the 8th pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, the Chicago Sky selected Ruthy Hebard from the University of Oregon.

SENIOR YEAR STATS:

17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 68.5 field goal percentage (No. 1 in the nation).

6-foot-4 forward, Fairbanks, Alaska

The Katrina McClain award winner for the nation’s top forward is headed the Windy City. Good thing she's used to cold weather after growing up in Alaska and playing college basketball in Eugene.

QUICK GLIMPSE AT THE CHICAGO SKY:

The Sky returned to the postseason in 2019 after a two-season drought under new head coach James Wade. They made the second round of the postseason, losing to the Las Vegas Aces on the road on a buzzer-beater. 

Hebard will join former-Gonzaga guard Courtney Vandersloot who also played college basketball for Kelly Graves. 

Look out for Ruthy to run the pick-and-roll with Sky guard Diamond DeShields who averaged 15.3 points in her sophomore WNBA season, including averaging 24 points per game in the postseason. Her hot shooting should open up the paint for Hebard. 

More to come on how Hebard fits in the Sky's system later.

How Satou Sabally becomes an immediate pillar for the Dallas Wings

How Satou Sabally becomes an immediate pillar for the Dallas Wings

On Thursday ahead of the WNBA Draft, Oregon’s Satou Sabally met with members of the media over Zoom.

In Sabally’s eyes, mock drafts are just mock drafts but she has had time to think of her potentially playing for Dallas, who held the No. 2 overall selection in Friday’s draft, and were projected to take Sabally. 

I’ve definitely thought about it. I’ve looked at the roster and they’re a really young team. I mean I would love to join them and just compete, build a new program basically and just do some new things. — Satou Sabally on potentially getting drafted by the Dallas Wings.

This is now a reality.

The mock drafts were right and Sabally will start her WNBA journey with the Dallas Wings organization.

Sabally didn’t have to wait long to hear her name called on draft night. Her Oregon teammate Sabrina Ionescu went No. 1 overall to the New York Liberty, and it is just the fourth time in WNBA history that picks one and two were from the same college.

The 6-foot-4 small forward was an absolute nightmare matchup throughout her three-year collegiate career at Oregon. Sabally decided to forgo her senior season at Oregon and turn professional, which wasn’t an easy decision at all, but ultimately it was the right one in her eyes.

Here’s how Sabally fits with the Dallas Wings:

The Wings have a very young roster with not one player having over four years of professional experience. This is huge for Sabally and builds up competition, giving her a chance to play and start right away. 

Dallas has three of the first seven picks in this 2020 WNBA Draft, indicating three future stars to build the team around. Sabally will be able to play anywhere between the 2-4 due to her frame and ball-handing which makes her an excellent choice to be a part of their core.

A potential backcourt of Sabally and Arike Ogunbowale complimented by Team USA’s Katie Lou Samuelson down low is not too shabby of a group to build an organization around. Sabally has that ability to stretch the floor with her dynamic three-point shot while also taking her defender off the dribble.

Congratulations, Satou!