The WNBA is calling her name, but Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard has some unfinished business

Chicago-born, Fairbanks-raised hoops star Ruthy Hebard is no stranger to the limelight or the accolades that come with it. 

Ruthy Hebard attempts a shot during Oregon’s first game of the 2018-19 season against the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks on Nov. 6, 2018. (Eric Engman/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)

The University of Oregon’s All-American senior forward has had the honor of being West Valley High School’s only player to have her jersey retired, has won a gold medal with USA Basketball and has been an all-conference star during her three years in the Ducks’ uniform. 

While Hebard is a sought-after prospect projected to be drafted in the first round of the 2020 WNBA draft, she’s focused on one of the only accolades to elude her thus far — a national championship. 

After helping lead the Ducks to their first Final Four in school history, they fell to the eventual-champion, the Baylor Bears, in a tight semifinal matchup.

“Being able to be [in] Oregon’s first women’s basketball team ever to make it to the Final Four was an amazing experience and one I will remember my whole life. Being able to make history with a group of girls you love is a great feeling,” Hebard said.

With Hebard and her teammate Sabrina Ionescu returning for their senior campaigns, the Ducks are boasting a 2019-20 roster that features seven of the nine players from last season’s team that finished the regular season with an overall record of 33-5 and a record of 16-2 in the Pac-12.  

Sabrina Ionescu (right) jumps into teammate Ruthy Hebard’s arms after Hebard’s go-ahead bucket to put Oregon ahead in the second half of a first-round matchup against Temple in the 2017 NCAA women’s college basketball tournament in Durham, NC on March 18, 2017. (AP Photo/ Gerry Broome)

Hebard believes the Ducks still have no shortage of talent and chemistry. Of their seven returners, all four of Oregon’s leading scorers from last season are returning for the 2019-20 season (Ionescu, 19.9 points per game; Sabally Satou, 16.6; Ruthy Hebard, 16.1; Erin Boley, 12.4), with three-time Pac-12 all-defensive team transfer Minyon Moore from USC joining the mix. 

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“We have great talent returning and coming in,” Hebard said. “I know that my whole team is very hungry. Sabrina [Ionescu] and I are especially ready to start the season off. It is crazy how fast four years can go, but I think we are all excited to get on the court and play Oregon basketball… I am lucky to be on a team that holds each other accountable. We all know what we can do and what our strengths are.” 

Regardless of how her senior season unfolds, Hebard looks forward to graduating with a journalism degree in the spring. 

“My goal is to play in the WNBA and then in the offseason, do what most women do and go play overseas,” Hebard said. “I want to play basketball for as long as I can and then, after, pursue a career in the journalism field.”

While an official date has not yet been released, the Ducks’ season is likely set to kick off in early November.