For the first time since returning to Eugene after losing to eventual champion Baylor in the Final Four, head coach Kelly Graves and junior guard Sabrina Ionescu spoke to the media.
Here are three takeaways from the final press conference of the 2018-19 season:
Ionescu only had 24 hours after the loss to Baylor t0 decide her fate and make the biggest decision of her basketball career. Originally, Ionescu thought she had until 12 a.m. eastern time but she only had until 9 p.m. So she showered, ate and took a walk with her brother and her mom.
Sabrina, along with her family, gathered around a bench just outside of the team hotel in Tampa, Florida, and after a brief moment of silence, the decision was made.
“I said I’m staying and that was kind of it,” Ionescu said. “My mom, my brother were crying. I was crying and I was like, ‘I’m staying, that's what I wanna do.’”
Despite those close to her knowing her decision, the nation thought the opposite. A report surfaced from High Post Hoops that she was leaving, so Ionescu quickly turned to social media and her team to shut that report down.
Howard Megdal, who according to Graves is a friend of his, reported information about Ionescu and was quickly met with a text from Graves that said, “you may want to rethink your tweet.”
“He was genuinely sick to his stomach is how he phrased it. He was apologetic,” Graves said. “It was just one of those things that happened.”
With Ionescu's decision having to come swiftly, especially within hours of a Final Four loss, her and Graves were critical of the WNBA’s rule.
“It's horrible that a student-athlete only gets 24 hours to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives,” Ionescu said. “Probably the most stressed i’ve been in a very, very long time.”
Graves added: “That's tough for any life decision and this isn't just a small decision, this is a life changing decision. To have to make it under those circumstances in 24 hours, is too much to ask.”
The Ducks, who fell just short of a National Championship berth, will be returning four of their five starters for next season and only losing two overall players from their roster.
“We are obviously going to be really, really good next year,” Ionescu said. “We are not going to take any of those losses that we took last year.”
Oregon will welcome Nyara Sabally, who sat out with season-ending knee surgery, along with two key freshman, Jazmin Shelley and Holly Winterburn, who are set to make an immediate impact for their squad.
“We’re losing two great pieces, but we’re going to be adding a lot of great pieces to an already great puzzle,” Ionescu said.
With the Ducks adding and losing key pieces, they will rely on their recent postseason experience to try and capture the elusive national title.
“In that Baylor game, in that Notre Dame game and in that UConn game the year before, we learned a lot and we bounced back really well from all those losses,” Ionescu said. “Next year is going to be scary.”
The Ducks are still looking for two more home games.
Though the schedule is not finalized, Graves said the Ducks will be facing the likes of Baylor, South Carolina, UConn, Syrcause and South Dakota State
"We're going to schedule up, we're going to push ourselves," Graves said.
The Ducks will face a daunting nonconference schedule along with a strong Pac-12 conference to prepare for their Tournament run in 2020.
"I'm excited for our team next year," Graves said. "I think we got the chance to do something really special."