WNBA debut seasons vary for ex-Ducks
It has been almost seven months since the Oregon women's basketball team had its national championship dream spoiled by COVID-19.
Since that gut-punch, the stars of that team have experienced an eventful transition to professional basketball.
Satou Sabally, Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard had very different first seasons in the WNBA, which took place in a "bubble" at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The only one to make the playoffs was Hebard, whose Chicago Sky team lost its first single-elimination game.
Ionescu, of course, saw her rookie reason end early. A series ankle injury in the second quarter of her third pro game delayed her anticipated arrival as a bona fide star.
Sabally, the No. 2 pick in April's WNBA Draft, was named to the WNBA all-Rookie Team.
Her averages — 13.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists — put Sabally into rare company. Only Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker and Breanna Stewart have posted better averages in those combined categories as rookies.
Sabally ranked first among rookies in rebounding and third in scoring. She led Dallas in rebounding and posted five double-doubles.
Sabally missed six of Dallas' 22 games, four with a midseason back injury. She'd become a regular starter for the Wings before missing the final two of the regular season in concussion protocol after a collision with Seattle's Sue Bird.
The Wings finished one game back of the Washington Mystics for the final playoff spot.
In her third professional game, Sabally led the Wings to a win over Indiana with 23 points, 17 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot. She made game-deciding plays at both ends of the court in the three-point victory.
After returning from her back injury, Sabally scored a season-high 28 points to go with 11 rebounds and two blocked shots in a loss to Las Vegas.
Sabally already has started her season with her second professional team, Fenerbahçe Öznur Kablo.
In addition to her success on the floor, Sabally has been vocal about issues of social justice. The German international is one of the leaders of the new WNBA's Social Justice Council, formed this year to "to address this country's long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism that has targeted black and brown communities."
In a Sports Illustrated profile written in August, Sabally talked about how growing up in Gambia as a young child and in Germany from the first grade on shaped her world view.
The season went much differently for Ionescu, picked by the New York Liberty just ahead of Sabally back in the April WNBA draft.
An ankle injury ended Ionescu's season 12 minutes into her third game. Coming off a 33-point, six-rebound, seven-assist performance in her second game, Ionescu was off to a fast start against Atlanta before the injury.
The good news is Ionescu did not need surgery and is expected to be 100% healthy next season. Her New York Liberty went 2-20 without her.
In a twist, Ionescu's injury could help Sabally's Dallas team. In April, New York traded its 2021 first- and second-round picks to Dallas.
Hebard got to experience a playoff game in her rookie season with the Chicago Sky.
Hebard played all 22 regular-season games for the Sky, averaging 1.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.5 minutes.
In Chicago's single-game playoff loss to Connecticut, Hebard had four points, two rebounds and a blocked shot in 18 minutes. Her 68.2% field-goal percentage led her team.
Hebard scored a season-high 22 points in the final regular-season game, a win over Dallas. She was 9 of 12 from the floor in that game and also had eight rebounds, two blocked shots, a steal and two assists in 32 minutes. She scored in double figures four times.
Former Oregon State standouts Sydney Wiess and Marie Gulich were with the Los Angeles Sparks, who lost to Connecticut in the second playoff round.
In 19 regular-season games (15 starts), Wiese averaged 6.8 points. 1.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. She was sixth on the team in minutes per game and seventh in scoring. She was scoreless in 18 minutes in the one-game playoff loss to the Sun.
Gulich appeared in 12 games (one start), scoring a season-high seven points in 24 minutes in the second game of the season. She did not play in a postseason game.
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