In the words of Oregon women’s basketball head coach Kelly Graves, sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard is “a nightmare for defenses.”
“If you don’t double her, you’re going one-on-one against an elite post,” Graves said.
For the past two seasons, the Fairbanks, Alaska native has been the premier forward for the Ducks. She is third in the NCAA in field goal percentage at 66.4 percent, and still averaging over 15 points and eight rebounds per game. On espnW’s top 25 women’s basketball players to watch this season, Hebard was ranked 25th while teammate and fellow sophomore Sabrina Ionescu was ranked eighth.
Last season, as a freshman, she led the Ducks in points and rebounds per game, with 14.9 and 8.5, respectively. She had the best field goal percentage in the Pac-12 shooting 58.8 percent from the field. During last season’s NCAA Tournament, Hebard was one of three freshman to consistently start games, along with Ionescu and Mallory McGwire.
Hebard just focuses on game, and doesn’t worry about the stats.
“When people tweet about it, I look at it,” she said. “But other than that, I’m just playing.”
Ryan Hales, the head coach of Alaska Stars, Hebard’s former club team for three years, believes she is one of the most humble people he has ever been around.
“She has got a great attitude and a phenomenal personality,” Hales said. “Everybody just loves to be around her.”
While she may be only a sophomore, Hebard has been compared to former Duck Jillian Alleyne, the Pac-12 all-time leading rebounder.
Hebard watched Alleyne while she was being recruited.
“It’s cool to be talked about with her because she is such a great person and basketball player,” Hebard said.
Even though Hebard is playing fewer minutes than Alleyne, Hebard’s stats are impressive enough to stand on their own. She’s up to 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
This past summer, Hebard traveled with USA Basketball’s U19 team to Italy for the U19 FIBA World Cup. There, she got a look at her new teammates, Anneli Maley and Aina Ayuso, and played against some top-tier international talent.
Hebard’s physicality has been hugely beneficial for Oregon. Now ranked No. 7 in the country — its highest ranking ever— the intensity is taken up another notch.
“Coach says there is a target on our back now, and that’s going to make everyone bring their A-game, which is good for us because we shouldn’t relax on any team,” Hebard said.
Her mentality comes from growing up in Alaska, a state not known for its high school basketball standouts. But as a three-time Alaska Gatorade National Player of the Year, Hebard has been one of the best Alaskan players ever.
“We have to travel a long ways to get any exposure, ” Hales said. “She has to have a chip on her shoulder. They have complete at a high level so they can even get a glimpse of being seen.”
Now that Hebard has received exposure on the national stage, she continues to amaze players, fans and coaches with her efficiency and attitude.
Follow August Howell @howell_august