Kelly Graves excited for Geese’ subsequent season
Kelly Graves visited the Hoosier Gym during his trip to see his son Will play for Gonzaga during the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis.
When it comes to the Oregon women’s basketball program that sees players being lost to transfers, including Taylor Chavez’s recent departures for Arizona and Jaz Shelley for Nebraska, Graves sees the same way as the character Norman Dale of his close-knit “hoosiers”.
“That’s kind of an attitude I take: my team is on the ground,” said Graves, who brought home a souvenir t-shirt with the slogan on the back, during a zoom with local media on Wednesday. “I like what I have. This is a group that I think we can develop. “
That doesn’t mean Graves didn’t want Chavez and Shelley – two rotation players from the 2020 Pac-12 championship team – to stay on the program. He still describes the guard tandem as “family”.
But there are only so many minutes of playing time available.
“Everyone in the program saw what was happening, and the reality was that they just wanted to play more and didn’t feel like they were going to be in Oregon,” Graves said. “I think they enjoyed their experience here, or at least they said so. I think it came down to the need for the better fit elsewhere.”
Oregon’s 2019 Final Four team had just 10 players on the roster, including Nyara Sabally, who was unable to play due to an injury.
Before injuries became a factor last season, there were games where all 13 players saw action.
“I think I hurt us trying to play too many players,” said Graves. “We never really got into the rhythm we needed.”
Unless employees in Oregon find a perfect fit – like Minyon Moore two years ago when he replaced Maite Cazorla – Graves has no plans to fish in the sea of players on the NCAA transfer portal.
“I’ve always enjoyed a smaller roster,” said Graves. “I think everyone feels engaged.”
The return of “power” basketball
Oregon, which reached the Sweet 16 with nine newcomers, will begin off-season training next Monday with its remaining nine players.
In addition to the loss of Chavez and Shelley, seniors Erin Boley and Lydia Giomi have graduated and are moving on.
The Ducks will join the team this summer two 2021 recruits signed last November – five-star security guard Taylor Bigby and 6-foot-8 center Phillipina Kyei.
Sabally, Te-Hina Paopao and Maddie Scherr, three key players injured during the 2020-21 run in Oregon, are healthy and ready to continue their development.
Sabally was called up to the All-Pac-12 team after he had led the team in the scoring (12.9 points per game) and in the rebound (7.3 rebounds per game). The 6-5 forward had 14 points and seven rebounds before injuring himself against Louisville in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in the third quarter.
Paopao started the first 19 games of her career in Oregon before injuring herself at the end of the season. The Freshman Point Guard was appointed to the All-Pac-12 team after an average of 10.2 points, 4.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
Scherr became the best full-back of the ducks and started the NCAA tournament for Papopao as point guard until he injured himself in the first quarter against Louisville.
Sedona Prince, who made headlines in San Antonio for calling up the NCAA and for her standout game, will be competing for the American basketball AmeriCup team in South Carolina next week.
Graves said Paopao was also invited to attend the event on the South Carolina campus. Dawn Staley (South Carolina) is the head coach and Adia Barnes (Arizona) is one of the assistants.
“I’m really proud of the way we ended the season,” said Graves. “That will be a good sign, just the fact that we played the tournament, made a little noise and won a few games. That will do this young team good. “
The coaching team is looking forward to further developing the players over the next few months, which the advertised 2020 recruitment class did not experience much due to the pandemic last year.
Newbies Sydney Parrish, Angela Dugalic and Kylee Watson have a chance to earn more playtime after getting their feet wet as true newbies.
Sabally and Prince, who didn’t lay on the floor much at the same time until proved to be an unstoppable force when doing well together in the postseason, have the size and skills to dominate.
Taylor Mikesell and the guards should get higher quality 3-point shooting opportunities next season after getting used to the gap with two greats on the field.
Graves is confident that Bigby will be a playmaker along with Paopao and form a “dynamic” defensive duo on the back seat with Scherr.
“The main thing is, we just have to spend some time in the gym and weight room,” said Graves. “Strength will come first. Hopefully we’ll play a little more power basketball in the future. We need to get stronger, and that includes our perimeter children. “
UO’s 2021-22 schedule is “insane”
Oregon is one of six programs to achieve the Sweet 16 in the last four NCAA tournaments. The others on the list are Baylor, Louisville, South Carolina, UConn and the 2021 national champion Stanford.
The Ducks will play against most of these powerhouse teams for the next season.
“Our schedule is actually insane,” said Graves.
Oregon will be participating in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas from November 20-22. The field includes UConn, South Carolina, South Florida, Syracuse, Buffalo, Minnesota, and Oklahoma.
The ducks will also receive UConn, led by National Player of the Year Paige Buecker, during the non-conference game in Eugene.
Graves has street games scheduled in Kansas State, Northwestern, and Portland. He said there is also a chance Oregon could put Baylor on the list after last season’s matchup in Las Vegas was canceled.
“It’s going to be a pretty demanding schedule,” said Graves. “And I’m not done yet.”
The Ducks are looking for high profile non-conference opponents to play at the Matthew Knight Arena with the expectation that fans will return to see Graves put his team on the ground in 2021-22.
Contact reporter Ryan Thorburn at email@example.com or 541-338-2330 and follow him on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn. Do you want more stories like this one? Subscribe for full access and support local journalism.