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Michelle Smith Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Feature: Oregon's Erin Boley

Jan 8, 2021
@EricEvansPhoto / Oregon Athletics
Erin Boley admits it was difficult to turn the page on last season, the Oregon Ducks coming off a third-straight Pac-12 title, a tournament championship and prepared to pivot to being a favorite to win the NCAA title.
 
And it all disappeared in the huge wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA Tournament was called off. There would be no title run. No chance to finish unfinished business with teammates Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally. And as the Ducks senior forward returned to campus late last summer, the disappointment was still palpable.
 
“It was much harder to come back and move on, knowing we had no ending to last season,” Boley said Wednesday as Oregon prepared to travel to California for Friday’s showdown against top-ranked Stanford. “But then I looked around and I knew I had to learn to play with all of these newcomers, to feel out who they are, and it wasn’t just me who was making a big change.”

Boley called it a growth journey for her team, one that continues every day.

Boley, the lone returning starter from last year’s championship team, and one of two seniors on a roster than includes nine new players, is leading a balanced Oregon offense in scoring at 13.0 points a game to go with 5.2 rebounds. She has moved from her role as a perimeter shooter to a player that needs to do more to help her team be successful.

“The true testament to what a great team player she is is that she has been a catch and shoot player for us, somebody who would stretch the defense and now we are asking her to do more,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “And she has bought into that. She is capable of doing more and she’s showing that.”

Graves used the example of rebounding. “She started this season with one offense rebound in 808 minutes on the floor,” Graves said. Now she has 16 through nine games.

“We didn’t ask her for O-Boards before, and know we are asking her to be one of our better rebounders and those are hard to come by,” Graves said. “She does whatever we need.”

And then there’s the fact that Boley is “one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met.”

Boley is a player, Graves said, that her teammates look up to her. They know she has been through the Pac-12 battles. He calls her “the college pro.”

“She’s not a vocal person, but she comes prepared every day and she just does her job,” Graves said. “No knucklehead stuff, she just does the right thing.”

Graves might wish Boley was a little more vocal, that she had a little bit more of the “alpha” personality that say, Ionescu brought to the floor every day. “But there are different types of leadership and she shows every day what it is like to be a true student athlete,” Graves said.

Boley said she realized early in the season that it was up to her and fellow senior Lydia Geomi to establish a new culture for a new team.

“We can’t do the same things we always did because we aren’t the same team. The way we have come together, the way we have bonded, fits our new personalities,” Boley said. “It’s hard for me to be dominant vocally. But I know I have some great 1-on-1 relationships with my teammates. I can’t change who I am, but I can use my strengths.”

The Ducks are finding their way behind their senior leader, with an 8-1 record and lessons to be learned from last Sunday’s loss to UCLA at Matthew Knight Arena.

“We are going to make mistakes, and we are still working on things, but we are getting to know each other better all the time and we are going to get better,” Boley said. 

Boley said that after last season’s disappointing end, she feels “lucky to be playing” every day.

“With all of the teams that are getting cancelled or postponed or have chosen not to play, it is a very different feeling,” Boley said. “But I’m not disappointed or upset, I just feel excited to have the chance to play the next game with this team.”