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Kelly Graves, head coach for the Ducks, yells instructions to Duck players. The Oregon Ducks Women’s Basketball team defeats the Arizona Wildcats 85-52 on Feb. 7, 2020. (Madi Mather/Emerald)

While head coach Kelly Graves has led Oregon to a Final Four appearance, three straight Pac-12 regular-season titles and a plethora of team accolades, he and his staff have also recruited what is arguably the best recruiting class in the nation for 2020. 

Yes, the Ducks lost the core of the most historic team in school history — dubbed the Big Three: Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally — but they gained five five-star incoming freshmen this season. 

All five freshmen were McDonald's All-Americans, Jordan Brand Classic Selections, ranked within the top-25 espnW Top 100 and Gatorade State Player of the Years in their respective home states. 

The five-star recruits come from all over the nation: Illinois, Kentucky, California, New Jersey and Indiana. They decided to make the trek to Oregon for one goal only: to win a national title and complete the unfinished business. 

 

Te-Hina Paopao had star potential since fifth grade 

Te-Hina Paopao was just 10 years old when people started noticing her rare talent. 

She was a fifth grader playing on a 16U team in the Oregon End of the Trail tournament, a nationally showcased viewing tournament for college scouts.

During a team lunch at Red Robin, head coach Terri Bamford set a goal for Paopao: to become a McDonald’s All-American. 

Paopao asked, “What’s that?” 

On that day, they shook on it, and when she was a senior they can look back at the promise they made six years prior. 

Coming out a senior from La Jolla Country Day School in Oceanside, California, the McDonald’s All-American is ready to bring her fire power to Oregon. 

“She has the full package,” Bamford said. “She can shoot the three deep, she’s got a mid-range, she’s got a floater, she’s got multiple finishes at the rim, but her IQ for the game is extremely high.” 

Compared to her five-star counterparts, Paopao flew under the radar, partly due to her two ACL tears in her first years of high school. Those season-ending injuries, however, didn’t stop her from seizing the opportunity to play under Graves. 

With the losses in the backcourt of Ionescu and Minyon Moore, Paopao can have the opportunity to play minutes right away to fill either guard positions. 

“What separates her from a lot of players is her IQ,” Bamford. said. “She gets offense, she gets defense and she’s able to read and recognize mismatches right away and make the right decisions.”

 

Guard Maddie Scherr is no stranger to playing at a higher level

As a member of Ryle High School’s varsity squad since she was a seventh grader, Maddie Scherr knows how to rise to the competition.

At a young age, she knew wanted to be Kentucky Miss Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American, both of which she accomplished. 

Scherr’s height combined with her ball handling skills makes for a multi-faceted approach to the game.

“Her ball handling skills are amazing,” said Ryle High varsity coach Katie Haitz. “She worked really hard her junior and senior years to become a great shooter. She sees the floor extremely well and works really hard to understand team concepts and what coaches want her to do.”

Scherr will play alongside and learn under another Kentucky native, senior guard Erin Boley.

The No. 19-ranked recruit has left her mark in Kentucky, receiving Gatorade Player of the Year twice at Ryle High, an all-time leader in scoring, rebounds and assists and led her high school to its first ever state championship title. 

As one of the best two-way guards in the country, Scherr is ready to bring her work ethic to the Ducks. 

 

Versatile guard Sydney Parrish's workhorse mentality won’t go unnoticed 

About two hours north of Scherr in Kentucky is Sydney Parrish in Fishers, Indiana. 

Parrish and Scherr have gone head-to-head in AAU since they were 12 years old. The same accolades that surrounded Scherr were also mentioned regarding Parrish in neighboring Indiana. 

Since middle school, the two five-stars would often see one another at elite camps where they started to build a relationship. The two guards finally have a chance to wear the same uniform and possibly become the best incoming backcourt duo in the nation.

The two players share similar skills on the court as well.

Parrish, who was Oregon's top-ranked 2020 recruit at No. 8 in the espnW top-100 rankings, burst into the spotlight early in her high school career averaging 16.2 points per game as a freshman at Hamilton Southeastern High. 

She is a pure sharpshooter who can shoot lights out, but also has the ability to score in multiple ways by putting the ball on the floor. Aside from her playing talents, Parrish’s hard work ethic and grit will put her in a position to see the floor this season. 

“What people don’t see are the text messages at six in the morning saying, ‘Coach, can I get your keys to shoot?’ And she’s spent many mornings in the gym before the sun even came up to workout before anyone else did,” Hamilton Southeastern coach Chris Huppenthal said.

 

Angela Dugalic’s dedication to her community and to the game

In Normal, Illinois, Maine West High School head coach Kim de Marigny shuffled her team onto the bus for the state championship game at Redbird Arena. 

Waiting outside the bus was a young girl accompanied by her mother.

“Mom, do you think we can get a picture with Angela?” the girl asked. 

Dugalic kindly put down all her bags and food and stopped to take a picture with the girl.

“That’s Angela for you,” de Marigny said. “That’s just the kind of person she is. She’s always willing to help someone, and she’s never been about Angela, she’s always been about the team and everyone else.” 

Dugalic has been a role model for young athletes since middle school, but the pressure to perform hasn’t fazed her.

At 6 foot 4, Dugalic has athleticism in her blood. Both of her parents are from Serbia, and Dugalic was surrounded by sports at a young age. Her mom was a professional handball player in Europe. Her dad was involved in both soccer and martial arts and her brother, Milos, is a junior forward at Illinois Tech. 

Playing under de Marigny, Dugalic led her team to an undefeated 35-0 record and the 2019 Illinois 4-A State Championship. 

The versatile forward can run the floor like a point guard, attack the paint and finish at the rim and has a solid mid-range pull up. Oregon will look to use Dugalic to replace Satou Sabally, who possesses similar player traits to the freshman.

 

Kylee Watson’s 3,000 mile journey to Eugene

The New Jersey native is the farthest away from Eugene, Oregon, but she has made both places her home. 

Her mother, Courtney Watson, always wanted her to stay within a three-hour radius from their home in Linwood, New Jersey, but she lost that battle when Kylee decided she wanted to play out west. 

The freshman’s cousin, Ashley Jamison, is a junior on Oregon’s Acrobatics and Tumbling team, and having a piece of New Jersey and family eased Kylee’s parents in sending their daughter across the country.

“I really felt comfortable sending my daughter to a place like that,” her mother said. “The facilities are gorgeous, the coaching staff is awesome, it just felt right.”

The No. 17-ranked recruit and one of the nation’s elite forwards at 6 foot 4. Watson can stretch the floor as a forward, has stellar passing abilities and can easily scoop up double-digit rebounds, as she did for Maine West High School averaging 10.1 rebounds per game.