Oregon women’s basketball team begins 2021-22 with an exhibition and celebration

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As Kelly Graves’ Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team takes the floor against St. Martin’s on Thursday night, it’ll not only be the first time they’ve played in front of fans in almost two years, but it’ll be the first time for any of these current Ducks to play in front of their loyal following.

2019 seems like ages ago and that’s how much the roster has turned over since Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally, and the rest of that special group were robbed at a potential run for a national championship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can’t wait to have the crowd back. We were second in the nation in attendance,” Graves said. “We need to get the home crowd to get motivated. We truly have a home-court advantage, so get loud.”

Speaking of those Oregon legends, all three are expected to be in attendance to watch how the next generation of Ducks are doing. Ionescu has turned into a global superstar, Hebard is coming off a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky and Sabally is still a basketball unicorn and has had two very good seasons with the Dallas Wings, including being named to the WNBA All-Star game this past season.

“There are not too many teams that have that 2019 team to talk to, so we’re going to ask as many questions as we can,” Duck forward Sydney Parrish said. “It’ll be really interesting to see them get honored.”

Graves expects to have all 13 players healthy and ready to go for the exhibition and for the regular season, which begins Nov. 9 against Idaho State.

Oregon brings back much of last year’s squad that finished 15-9 overall and advanced to the Sweet 16 before Louisville ended the Ducks’ run. With a season under their belt and some key transfers coming in, Oregon the media picked to finish second in the Pac-12.

Among the Fab 5 freshmen that came to Eugene last year, four remain as point guard Te-Hina Paopao, guard Maddie Scherr, Kylee Watson and Parrish are all expected to have monster sophomore seasons. Angela Dugalic decided to transfer to UCLA.

Dana Sparks – The Register-Guard

“The four of us are best friends and we’ve got closer,” said Parrish. “It’s definitely helped us. I feel like a freshman. I’m just so excited. The nerves are starting to come (as the first game approaches).”

Oregon will have one of the biggest teams in the country with 6-foot-5 Nyara Sabally, 6-foot-7 Sedona Prince as well as 6-foot-8 Phillipina Kyei. The Ducks also sprinkled the roster with some talented transfers, such as former USC Trojan Endyia Rogers, former Clemson Tiger Taylor Hosendove and former New Mexico Lobo Ahlise Hurst.

“I love this new group,” Graves said. “They all give us something different.”

Oregon vs. St. Martin’s will tip off at 6 p.m. and will be live-streamed on goducks.com.

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