Satou Sabally will likely be the next Oregon women’s basketball player who needs to make a draft decision.
The Oregon forward is projected by ESPN as the No. 3 pick in the 2020 WNBA draft if she elects to leave school following her junior season.
“I’m not trying to think of next year,” Sabally said at last week’s Pac-12 women’s basketball media day.
The 6-foot-4 German was an all-Pac-12 pick after averaging 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds as a sophomore while helping Oregon reach the Final Four for the first time in school history. ESPN’s mock draft has her being selected by Indiana.
“Her game is still developing, but she's smooth, powerful and versatile, and could give the Fever another strong scoring threat,” read the scouting report on Sabally.
One factor that could bring Sabally back for her senior season is the opportunity to play with her sister, Nyara, who will miss a second straight season following knee surgery. Nyara Sabally, a 6-5 forward, is expected to debut for the Ducks next year.
“Obviously, I really want to play with my sister,” Satou Sabally said. “I know she’s going to be back and I’m really proud of her for how she has handled the situation because it is really tough. I don’t know a lot of people that have handled the situation as mature as she has. I’m sad about it, and I’m definitely playing for her this season.”
Sabally, who has started 67 of 76 games in two years with the Ducks, is one of four returning starters for the Ducks.
“I see myself as a veteran now,” Sabally said. “With all the experience and grinding and tears we have gone through, it is so much experience you cannot pay for.”
Oregon senior Sabrina Ionescu is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft by New York while senior Ruthy Hebard is projected by ESPN to go No. 7 to Seattle.
A few college juniors have declared for the WNBA draft in recent seasons, but Ionescu elected to return for her senior year despite being projected as the No. 1 pick last year. She had two days to make that decision following Oregon’s 72-67 loss to Baylor in the national semifinals.
“Honestly, I procrastinate a lot, so I waited until the last 30 minutes to really decide,” Ionescu said.
“You remember she showed up on campus in June, right?,” joked UO coach Kelly Graves, recalling when Ionescu was the top recruit in the nation who waited past the spring recruiting period to sign with the Ducks.
Graves returned to Eugene the day after the loss to Baylor while Ionescu remained in Tampa, Fla., to make her decision.
“When it was crunch time and I had to make a decision, I started to get a little nervous and anxious and was kind of doubting which decision was right for me,” she said. “I was getting a lot of phone calls and texts from people back home asking what I had decided and people kind of wanting to have their input on my decision.
"I went on a walk and my twin brother had met me and I just knew, there’s no way I can call (Graves) or my team and tell them that I’m going to be leaving. It just didn’t feel right, so at that moment I just knew that it was meant to be for me to stay for my last year.”
Ionescu called Graves with the news.
“Honestly, I felt positive the whole time about the fact that she was going to come back,” the coach said. “I did not have contact with Sabrina for more than a day and you never know who is in her ear and helping her make this decision and what’s happening because I wasn’t there. She really made our day when she had called us.”
Graves may await a similar call from Sabally following in April.
“I’ll let Sabrina talk to her,” Graves said. “If the money was like it is on the men’s side, I’d be derelict in my duties not to say she should go, but it’s not. Sabrina will be more highly visible this year than she would have been as a rookie in the WNBA.”