WBB Practice Report: Oct. 18
When the Oregon women's basketball team wrapped up practice Tuesday night, head coach Kelly Graves huddled his team at center court on the main floor of Matthew Knight Arena.
He asked the Ducks their impressions of the workout they had just completed. The first voice to chime in was an unexpected one – at least in the context of Oregon's team dynamics last season.
But that was a year ago, and Endyia Rogers is no longer a newcomer to the team. Rogers is now in her second year in the program, and she's no longer looking to defer to other voices in the locker room or on the floor.
"This year I'm a much better leader," said Rogers, the Ducks' second-leading scorer last season with 14.3 points per game after transferring from USC. "I was a leader, but I wasn't as vocal. I think I'm much more comfortable, because our team is receptive to what's being said. Everybody is in it to win."
Rogers is one of three Ducks who debuted with the program as transfers last season and now are veterans of the program. Ahlise Hurst is back after providing 38.2 percent three-point shooting last season – the best rate on the team – and Taylor Hosendove is looking to play a bigger role after developing in practices and limited game action last season.
"I just feel more comfortable within the system," Hosendove said. "Kelly, (assistant coach) Jodie (Berry), all the coaches did a good job developing my game, and helping me with my strengths and weaknesses."
Rogers jumped right into a prominent role a season ago, starting 22 times, and Hurst is the only returner who played in all 32 games. Hosendove had more limited chances to show off her skills, but that could change during this upcoming season, which begins for the Ducks with an exhibition game Oct. 28 and the regular-season opener Nov. 7.
"I feel like when I'm contributing at the highest level, I'm on the boards getting offensive and defensive rebounds, and getting stops on the defensive end," Hosendove said. "And a facilitator – I can find my open teammates."
Hosendove is now a fifth-year player, and Rogers is a senior as well, though she has another year of eligibility available due to the pandemic. Still, they both feel a sense of urgency.
"It's time for me to step up," said Rogers, who got her first taste of NCAA Tournament experience with Oregon's first-round loss in the spring. "It's a big year for me, and I want more for myself and the team."
That sense of urgency is apparent.
Prior to Tuesday's practice, Graves handed out "toughness tabs" to the players, with concepts he wanted to see them emphasize. Midway through the workout the Ducks had a handful of turnovers, and Graves called out to one of his leaders, who was not on the court at the time.
"Endyia," he hollered, "what did your toughness tab say today?"
Her answer came quickly, and loudly: "Finish the play!"
Some of the turnovers, Rogers and Hosendove said later, might be due to jitters, an indication of how excited Oregon is to finally take the court for a game. But even then, Rogers said, the Ducks will be focused on improvement.
"We've still got a lot of growing to do," Rogers said. "We're taking steps forward, but we'll be taking bigger steps once games come because you learn when you play an actual game. We have five new people, and we'll be learning throughout the year. So that by the time it's towards the end of the year, and time for postseason, we'll be up there."
Spoken like a leader, and one newly comfortable raising her voice for the Ducks.
Practice highlights: Oregon's leaders came through in the final drill of Tuesday's practice, a scrimmage between the Ducks and their practice players. The guys had a 15-13 lead in a game being played to 20, but Rogers got to the basket twice for an and-one and another layup, and Te-Hina Paopao hit the "game winner" as the women finished on a 7-0 run to win 20-15. …
Freshman Jennah Isai also had a "game-winner" Tuesday night, in a shooting drill to provide a win for the team of Isai, Paopao, Hosendove, Hurst, Phillipina Kyei and Taya Hanson. … The women also came from behind to beat the practice guys in an earlier period, making up a 29-24 deficit with a three-point basket by Chance Gray and then a forced turnover on defense, which was worth two points in the drill. Hosendove ended the drill with a steal for a 30-29 win and yelled out for emphasis, "No sir!"
Other observations: After the team watched film to begin practice, Graves walked them through some new halfcourt offensive sets. "The Golden State Warriors will be running that later tonight," he said after installing one concept. … Graves loves to encourage the program's male practice players, and in the process needle his own players. After one such compliment, the Ducks chided Graves right back, with one player yelling, "You're supposed to be our coach!"