Inspiration is key to making a run in the NCAA Tournament, and members of the Oregon women’s basketball team know just that.
As the No. 2-seed Ducks look to surge beyond the Elite Eight for the first time, the team came together and each picked a word, phrase and/or symbol, which they wrote on tape and wrapped around their wrists.
“Whenever adversity hits during the game, figure something out [that] we can do to help the team stay focused and stay engaged,” senior Oti Gildon said about the reason behind the tape.
Even the coaching staff joined in.
Head coach Kelly Graves put his word — calmness — into action in Oregon’s first-round win over Portland State.
“I harp on them a lot during a lot of timeouts,” he said. “...[Calmness] was my thing tonight, so I was very calm at those timeouts.”
Freshman Taylor Chavez is recovering from a foot injury and has found the need for “positive energy” from the bench during her recovery.
“If you say the right thing you might change someone’s mindset for the whole game,” she said.
Morgan Yaeger selected “openness” as she embraces the role of Oregon’s lone healthy guard off the bench, filling in during Chavez’s absence.
“For me that means being open to help people, talk to people, listening to people but also being able to receive communication,” she said.
Junior guard and Pac-12 player of the year Sabrina Ionescu picked the word “assurance,” which suits the Oregon star player’s clutch nature. If the game is close and the clock is winding down, there’s no doubt she’ll be the one with the ball.
“Just bringing assurance to this team, assurance to myself that we’re right where we want to be, not really worry about any of those external pressures and just show the team that we got this,” Ionescu said. “We can do this and just stay focused and hopefully get to those goals that we’re trying to achieve.”
Her pick-and-roll partner in crime, Ruthy Hebard, reflected her personality with the word “joy,” which she accompanied with a cross.
“I’m kind of funny and laid back so I remember that in the hard times to be funny,” Hebard said. “People look up to me to make them laugh so just learn to be joyous and funny.”
Gildon is known as “Miss March” by Graves. She’s never been as heavily relied on in her four years as she will be in this Tournament run with a three-player bench.
Fittingly, she chose “consistency” as her word.
“That’s something I want to bring to the team no matter if it’s me running, coming off the bench, just bringing energy,” Gildon said. “I want to be a consistent factor for the team.”
Getting over the Elite Eight hurdle won’t be easy for Oregon with a path that could take the Ducks through third-seed Syracuse and top-seed Mississippi State. But first, Oregon has to take care of business against No. 10 Indiana on Sunday.
Assistant coach Xavi Lopez has dedicated his phrase to the postseason grind.
It reads just four words.
“We’ll sleep in May.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow