Saturday's Opener A Long Time Coming
Sedona Prince's scouting report for what to expect when Oregon opens the 2020-21 season against Seattle on Saturday extends beyond the opponent.
Prince, the 6-foot-7 transfer from Texas, will be making her debut for the UO women's basketball team in Saturday's game (1 p.m., Oregon Live Stream). So too will her fellow post, Nyara Sabally, each of them after missing the last two seasons due to injuries.
Prince and Sabally are anticipating more than just a tough nonconference game to open the season. They're anticipating a wave of emotions as well.
"We've talked," Prince said, "about how we're going to cry after the game."
If Prince and Sabally can hold back their emotions until postgame, UO head coach Kelly Graves will take it.
"I just hope," Graves said, "they don't cry on the court."
Indeed, emotions will be running high Saturday afternoon in Matthew Knight Arena, and not just for Prince and Sabally. It will be a shock to the system to see the Ducks without their three top-10 WNBA draft picks – Ruthy Hebard, Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally – who helped Oregon win three straight Pac-12 titles.
The anticipation is high to see the "Fab Five" freshman class make their collegiate debuts. And the Ducks will feature two more newcomers in transfer Taylor Mikesell, a deadeye shooter, and Arielle Wilson, a soft-spoken junior with the potential for a loud impact in the post.
But after all they've endured the last two years, none of the Ducks figure to experience the range of emotions Prince and Sabally are in for Saturday. Sabally is coming off ACL injuries that sidelined her each of her first two years at Oregon, while Prince sat out the 2018-19 season at Texas before joining the Ducks and also sitting out last season.
The two spent countless hours together in rehabilitation, forging a bond off the court that can begin paying dividends on the court Saturday.
"It's been two and a half years since either of us played a game," Prince said. "It's a pretty special connection."
Prince was a top-10 recruit nationally in the class of 2018, while Sabally, who stands 6-5, followed her sister to Oregon that same year. They're both wildly versatile players given their height, capable of moving and scoring like guards while also filling up the lane.
Graves will surround those two and fellow posts Lydia Giomi, Kylee Watson and Wilson with an outstanding array of shooters on the perimeter. Senior Erin Boley is "our best player right now," Graves said, and guard Te-Hina Paopao provides some of the competitive spirit that made Ionescu so great.
Another freshman, Maddie Scherr, is the team's best on-ball defender, Graves said, in the mold of former UO guard Maite Cazorla. And there's veteran leadership on the perimeter from Jaz Shelley and Taylor Chavez.
"It's ridiculous how many shooters we have," Prince said. "In practice, there's not a lot of shots missed."
Prince is so skilled even at 6-7 that she's capable of making three-pointers along with all those guards. Graves said he has to remind her at times to stay in the post, and put all that length to use.
If Prince gets overly excited and tries to take on a little extra Saturday, perhaps she will be forgiven. For both Prince and Sabally, Saturday's season opener has been a long time coming.
"It's been a long two years," Prince said. "I've been waiting patiently; it's been exciting but I've been super antsy. …
"Being through all that has given me such a great passion for the game. So I'm excited."