Kelly Graves said "timing is good" for Sabally to turn pro after the season

Kelly Graves is going to have to replace the entire Big Three next season.

Satou Sabally, No. 3 Oregon’s dynamic junior forward, announced Thursday that she will forgo her final year of eligibility and enter the WNBA draft after the season.

Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard, the program’s senior superstars, are also projected to be top-10 picks.

The Ducks (24-2, 13-1) are closing in on their third consecutive Pac-12 regular-season championship and looking to make a run at the program’s first national championship.

“Pretty cool,” coach Kelly Graves told The Register-Guard of the decision as his team was preparing to take off for the Bay Area. “I’m happy for her. Selfishly, obviously disappointed in the sense that I’d love to have her come back and have a big year for us and help us.

“But she’s ready.”

 

Sabally has raised her level of play during Oregon’s 12-game winning streak, notching six double-doubles during the span.

The 6-foot-4 German import is third on the team in scoring (16.0 points per game) and rebounding (7.4 per game) behind Hebard (17.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and Ionescu (17.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg).

“After long consideration, I have decided to follow my childhood dream to play professional basketball next season,” Sabally announced on social media Thursday afternoon. “I want to thank all the people along my journey who have helped me reach that goal.”

Sabally’s younger sister, Nyara, is a redshirt freshman who is sitting out for the second consecutive season due to knee injuries.

“It breaks my heart that I have not had the chance to play with my sister, Nyara, but I am glad we have been able to spend the last two years together,” Sabally wrote. “I am very proud of her for working hard and battling through her injuries. I know she is going to be a special player, and I am excited to watch her career unfold.

“I will miss all of my teammates, who have truly become like sisters to me.”

Graves said Sabally watched Ionescu struggle with the decision to return to Oregon or leave for the WNBA at least year’s Final Four.

The Big Three will now have one less distraction and a singular focus on the road to this year’s Final Four in New Orleans.

“I think the timing is good,” Graves said of Sabally’s announcement. “She wanted to be part of the senior day celebrations and have a chance to say goodbye. She saw what Sabrina went through and all of the questions. I think it can allow her to focus on what’s right in front of us.”

Oregon plays California on Friday at Haas Pavilion (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) before Monday’s top-five showdown at No. 4 Stanford.

Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to rthorburn@registerguard.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.