The former Duck made an impression on Chicago’s staff with her play on the court and personality off it
Oregon senior Ruthy Hebard is heading to the Windy City after the Chicago Sky selected her with the eighth pick in the 2020 WNBA draft.
“She was our pick,” Wade said in a conversation with High Post Hoops after the draft. “She got to eighth and it was like, ‘Ruthy is the pick.’”
The 6’4 big averaged 17.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game her senior season at Oregon. Her absurd 68.5% field goal percentage was second best in the nation and she was in the top 100 for both offensive and defensive rebounding rates, per HerHoopStats.
“I’m hoping to bring another player who wants to work hard, who wants to take the step and make it to the finals and win a championship eventually,” Hebard said on a media call after the draft.
Following a long season of scouting, the Chicago Sky coaching staff held a Zoom call with Hebard last week and were blown away by the Oregon prospect’s interview.
“Our coaches, they just loved her,” Wade said. “Right after the call everybody expressed how, ‘this is who we have to take.’ So for me, it was an easy sell because I liked her.”
Wade defined Hebard’s interview with one word: “giving.” From her approach to the game on the court to her ability to connect with teammates outside of it, the Sky were impressed by her cultural fit with the organization.
“How she is for teammates in the things that she’s interested in and off the floor, everything about her was about giving,” Wade said. “Everything. And we said, ‘That is the type of player that we want in our organization.’”
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One of the most notable improvements the Sky made last year was in the locker room. In part due to an increased sense of urgency and accountability from the staff and players, Chicago took a step forward in its performance and made it the second round of the WNBA playoffs.
“It was a win,” Wade said. “When you know that the impact on the court is great, the one thing that you want to say is okay, how could the impact be in the locker room? Or how could the impact be in practice? And everything matched and everything is just harmonious in the way that [Hebard] was, so we felt that she would be a good fit.”
Wade also took note of Hebard’s role in Kelly Graves’ system and the Oregon coach’s history of developing pro prospects, including Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot who Graves coached at Gonzaga.
“I think he finds players and I think he develops them in a pro style of play,” Wade said. “I think the system that she played in facilitates her getting into the league and playing a certain style and a certain type of way. And I think it helps when you have a coach that coaches pros and coaches pros to be pros.”
Even with Hebard’s lengthy resume, she will need to scrap her way into a deep front court rotation in Chicago.
“I don’t want to get caught up in where I see her or what not.” Wade said. “You have to understand she’s coming to a deep team, she’s coming to a team with four great post players. So she’s gonna have to, you know she’s gonna have to earn her time, but we’re going to get her ready to earn her time and she’s going to compete.”
The Sky have a host of veteran bigs returning with Stefanie Dolson, Jantel Lavender and Cheyenne Parker, as well as new addition Azurá Stevens, who was acquired in a trade from the Dallas Wings for Katie Lou Samuelson.
“But you have to be ready when your number is called because you never know what can happen,” Wade said in an interview with High Post Hoops the morning of the draft. “Just like when Jantel got hurt and we needed players to step up. So that’s what’s going to be expected of whoever we bring in. You have to be ready to play and we as a coaching staff have to be able to get you ready to play.”
Like Lavender, Stevens is also coming off of a foot injury so Hebard may have to step up earlier than expected if Stevens or Lavender aren’t 100 percent when the season begins.
Playing with Vandersloot will make Hebard’s transition easier, at least offensively. Vandersloot, who Hebard said had already texted her, set the WNBA record for single-season assists for the second year in a row last year. The veteran is a maestro in the pick and roll, which should give Hebard plenty of open looks around the basket.
“I’m really excited to bring my consistency, hopefully that keeps up in the league, and just being able to finish strong around the rim and finish over the larger players,” Hebard said.
Two more additions in the third round
Chicago followed up its selection of Hebard by adding UCLA guard Japreece Dean and Florida State forward Kiah Gillespie with pick No. 30 and No. 32.
“[Dean] has a good handle, good IQ, and playing in a point guard conference in the PAC-12 where she competed at a high level, I just think that was a good get for us,” Wade said.
Dean averaged 13.6 points, 5.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in her final year at UCLA, earning All-Pac-12 honors.
Most mock drafts had Gillespie going in the late first round or early second round of the draft, but the red shirt power forward fell to the Sky in the third round.
“People might say she’s a bit undersized, but she has a really long wingspan and a high standing reach so she’s somebody I think that can adapt well to our league,” Wade said.
In her final year with the Seminoles, Gillespie averaged 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.
“Once your name gets called you’re going to have the opportunity,” Wade said. “That’s the only thing you can ask for. And we’re excited to have them and right now they are a part of our organization. They’re going to have the opportunity to make their team, they just have to take advantage of it.”
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