Women's Hoops Practice Report
When the Oregon women's basketball team took the floor in Matthew Knight Arena for practice Thursday evening, there was a sense of newness, and also a sense of urgency.
As of Thursday night, the Ducks were barely more than a week into official practice for the 2022-23 season, with four freshmen still learning the ropes. But UO coach Kelly Graves made clear there was no easing into things, as the Ducks look to build on last year's 21-12 finish, which included a first-round NCAA Tournament loss.
"Three weeks from tomorrow!" Graves yelled at one point, noting that Oregon's exhibition opener against Carroll College on Oct. 28 would be here before the Ducks know it.
Over the next three hours, the Ducks broke down film, went through drills in small groups and did full-court work amongst themselves and against the program's practice players.
The practice players mostly wore yellow jerseys Thursday night, and they scored a win over the Ducks in a 3-on-2 half-court defensive drill. The next drill was a full-court transition drill, and the women got revenge with a 16-9 win.
That was a highlight for Graves.
"We're trying to get up and down a lot quicker, and our bigs are running the floor really well," he said. "And our guards are looking to score and make plays in transition. So I've been really pleased with the transition — that was one of our focuses, to push the ball, get early baskets, early opportunities. And they've really taken it to heart."
The Ducks then did some individual defensive work, and Graves thought the intensity lagged a bit. Some of that might have been human nature, he noted: "They love to play offense, right? Everybody does."
But practice ended with a big stop on defense, as the UO women got some redemption. With a quintet of Te-Hina Paopao, Phillipina Kyei, Chance Gray, Grace VanSlooten and Jennah Isai on the floor, Graves announced that a stop in a full-court drill would let the Ducks end practice a few minutes early.
They didn't get it immediately; new UO assistant coach Sadie Edwards was playing with the practice guys, and she made a baseline jumper to force another rep in the drill. But the next rep saw the five Ducks lock down and force the practice squad to loft up a three-pointer late in the shot clock, which missed.
An exchange a few minutes earlier in practice perhaps summed up the night of work by the Ducks.
"That was an A-minus," Graves said after one drill had concluded. "Pretty good work."
Veteran Sedona Prince asked rhetorically, "A-minus?"
"What, you want me giving out A's already?" Graves asked. "It's only October."
Yes, a long season awaits the Ducks. But also, it will be here before they know it.
Practice highlights: Oregon's freshmen helped set the tone in the transition drill that was the highlight of practice for Graves. Gray played lockdown defense on the perimeter, setting up fastbreak opportunities that VanSlooten consistently led, the 6-foot-3 forward routinely beating smaller players — and the male practice players — down the court. … One sequence in that drill featured a pretty finish by Isai, who crossed over a practice player behind her back at the perimeter, drove the left side of the lane and laid up a basket with her right hand. …
Part of the team's regular routine is a layup drill called "peer pressure," in which a miss by one player causes the entire team to have to start the drill over. Nobody missed Thursday night. … At one point the Ducks broke up into two squads and went head-to-head in a shooting drill. The quintet of Gray, Taylor Hosendove, Endyia Rogers, Ahlise Hurst and Kennedy Basham had a decided edge in the drill.
Other observations: Practice began with a film session, and before assistant Jodie Berry reviewed film of the previous day's practice, Graves did a few minutes of team-building. Spurred by a passage he read in a book by TV personality Robin Roberts, Graves announced that it was "Thankful Thursday" and had each player offer a couple of things for which she was thankful. … Graves noted that "thankfulness" is one of the program's five pillars, along with passion, unity, integrity and servanthood. …
Paopao then turned the tables, given that "National Coaches Day" was being recognized Thursday on the team's social media accounts. "Happy coaches' day!" she said. "We love you all." … Graves had an epically bad dad joke when the Ducks were doing an isolation — or "ice" — drill. Using a nickname for Paopao, he said aloud: "That always kills me: 'Ice, T!' "