Oregon's Satou Sabally to declare for WNBA draft, joining Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard as likely top picks

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Oregon's Satou Sabally, left, picks up a player control foul against Utah's Dru Gylten during the second quarter of an NCAA college basketball game in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)
Oregon's Satou Sabally will declare for the WNBA draft. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Oregon forward Satou Sabally will forgo her senior season and enter the 2020 WNBA draft.

Sabally is eligible to declare since she turns 22 during the calendar year and said she made the announcement so she could focus on the tournaments rather than the question of leaving.

"After this season, I'm going pro. I really want to fulfill my childhood dream and play in the WNBA and later on play professionally in Europe," Sabally told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "It was [a] very hard [decision], but it was also a decision that just came from heart."

Her declaration means the No. 1 Ducks’ sensational trio of Sabally and seniors Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard will all be leaving in April. Sabally released a Twitter statement in conjunction with the interview.

The 6-foot-4 forward is expected to be a top-4 lottery pick in the April 17 draft, joining Ionescu and Hebard as anticipated first-round picks.

Ionescu is expected to go No. 1 to the New York Liberty; she was the anticipated No. 1 pick if she came out last year, but decided to stay to chase unfinished business. Oregon finished in the final four last season, its first trip there.

The Dallas Wings hold the No. 2 pick and the Indiana Fever hold the No. 3. The Atlanta Dream is fourth.

WNBA CBA encouraged Sabally to leave Oregon

Sabally told ESPN’s Holly Rowe she made the decision to come out in part due to her family’s finances. She is one of six siblings and said she wanted to “give a better lifestyle” to her family. Her sister, Nyara, is a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman at Oregon.

"My family is not that financially rich or in the middle class," said Satou Sabally, who added that she would also send money to extended family in Gambia, via ESPN. "I feel like I can finally give back and make their lives a little bit easier, pay their rent for a nicer house, because we were all squished together.

" ... Just provide a life for my little brothers where they maybe have more than one pair of shoes for a whole season."

In past seasons, it would be unheard of for one of the game’s best players to come out early for a financial windfall as they do in the men’s game. Now that the recently signed collective bargaining agreement (CBA) increased the salary cap and maximum salary structure, draft picks can make more money out of the gate and increase their earnings in ways they couldn’t before.

The base salaries for the first four lottery picks starting in 2020 will be $68,000 their rookie year. The rest of the first round will get contracts between $62,000 and $65,000. Breanna Stewart, the four-time champion at UConn, was set to make approximately that the season after she won the 2018 MVP and championship with the Seattle Storm in her third year. She did not play in 2019 due to injury.

The earnings after a rookie year are also higher, with maximum salaries currently at $215,000.

Sabally leading Oregon to Pac-12 championship

Oregon, ranked No. 3 in the nation for a fourth consecutive week, could clinch its third consecutive Pac-12 regular season title with a win over No. 4 Stanford on Monday night.

Sabally, a former Pac-12 freshman of the year, is averaging 16.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

"I think she's really diversified her game; she's added some post-up moves," Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said. "She's become better off the dribble. Before she was more a straight-line driver to the basket, now she can create a little bit — not just for herself, but others. That's the biggest area she is still working on."

The Ducks (24-2, 13-1 Pac-12) beat the USA national team in the fall and went to Storrs to beat UConn for the first time in a dominating performance. They were defeating ranked teams by a margin of victory near 20 points in the past 10 games.

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