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WBB Practice Report: Oct. 13

Oct 14, 2022

Between six returners and five newcomers, the 2022-23 roster for the Oregon women's basketball team is almost evenly split between veterans and new additions.

Off the court, the chemistry among those 11 Ducks developed at a fast pace. And it's coming along quickly on the court as well, since official practices began Sept. 27.

The Ducks as of Friday are enjoying three days off, and they headed into that break after a workout Thursday evening. Defensive intensity was a focus, but there were chances too to see how well the UO women are developing chemistry when they have the ball.

In a 2-on-2 drill midway through practice, veteran guard Te-Hina Paopao fed freshman forward Grace VanSlooten a couple of times for baskets in the post. Later in a 5-on-5 transition drill, the duo was at it again. VanSlooten beat everyone else down the court as usual, and Paopao knifed a pass through the lane to her for a layup.

"She's a great one to play with — and everyone else is, too," Paopao said later. "We're already in that chemistry mode, just together already."

Frequently Thursday night, VanSlooten would look to a fellow forward, veteran Sedona Prince, for feedback after a drill. They would be serious one minute and joking the next, if Prince lightly chided VanSlooten on something she could improve.

"She definitely gives me trouble about my misses," VanSlooten said with a laugh. "But she gives me a lot of advice. She's a great role model and I look up to her a lot."

Chemistry remains a work in progress for the Ducks as they prepare for the start of the season, with an exhibition game at home Oct. 28 and the season opener in Matthew Knight Arena on Nov. 7. During one drill late in practice Thursday, assistant coach Jackie Nared Hairston yelled to the Ducks, "we need to get louder," as they communicated in a halfcourt defensive set.

"You guys, it's the fourth quarter, let's finish strong," head coach Kelly Graves added.

But overall the staff seems encouraged with the bonds Oregon has formed so far. And there's time still to strengthen them further, before they finally take the court for real.

"I think we did jell really, really quickly," VanSlooten said. "I think that comes from our leaders, from our upperclassmen. They're just really good at getting us involved, telling us what's going on, explaining the drills. So props to them."

Practice highlights: Thursday's workout closed with a three-minute scrimmage between the Ducks and their practice players. Freshman guard Jennah Isai got the UO women going by fighting through traffic and driving to the basket for a layup. Endyia Rogers followed with a jumper from long range, Paopao hit another and then Paopao capped the period with a layup as the Ducks won the drill. … Post Phillipina Kyei got the team fired up by finishing off a rebounding drill with two big boards to win that practice period for herself and her teammates in the drill — Paopao, Isai and VanSlooten. Coaches put a lid on the basket so the Ducks could work both on blockouts and defeating blockouts, and Kyei finished strong. …

The Ducks do a "3-2-1" shooting drill in which one player has to make a short jumper, one has to make a free throw and one has to make a three-pointer, and the penalty if anyone misses is for the whole team to run. There was no penalty Thursday after Paopao made the bunny, Rogers hit the free throw and Gray drained the three-pointer. … Some other shooting drills that reset with a miss took longer Thursday, and Graves didn't want to see the Ducks get discouraged. "Keep the spirits up," he yelled. "Let's go, keep the spirits up!" With the team split up for a period of three-pointers by the guard and midrange jumpers by the bigs, Taylor Hosendove hit a "game winner" for her team that included Prince, Gray, VanSlooten, Isai and Rogers.

Other observations: Each practice for the team includes a period of fundamentals that Graves calls their "daily vitamins." That period Thursday was devoted to ball handling. … The Ducks had about 100 members of their "Fast Break Club" of supporters in attendance to watch practice. Afterward players shook hands and mingled with the fans to show their appreciation for the support. … In the post-practice huddle, Graves reminded players of the upcoming election and encouraged them to check their voter registration. He said the program has had 100 percent registration and participation in elections in the past, and he wants that to be the case again this year.

Junior guard Te-Hina Paopao
On the chemistry the Ducks have developed so far this preseason

"Honestly I think we're all on the same page. I think the chemistry we have this year in phenomenal. We clicked right away, when we all met each other. So it's a really solid group. I'm excited for us."

Freshman forward Grace VanSlooten
On how preseason practices are progressing for the Ducks

"We're all definitely tired; our bodies are tired. But we're so excited to get games going. We just really want to do well this year. We have some big goals, so we have to push through and just trust each other.