Sky forward Ruthy Hebard had a strong rookie season — and people took notice

“She carried herself well,” Sky coach James Wade said.

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Ruthy Hebard

Alyssa Thomas #25 of the Connecticut Sun shoots guarded by Ruthy Hebard #24 and Allie Quigley #14 of the Chicago Sky in the first half during Game One of their First Round playoff at Feld Entertainment Center on September 15, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Ruthy Hebard is far from content with her first WNBA season. But given the unprecedented circumstances of 2020, she said she is pleased with how she did overall.

Making the transition from college to the WNBA is difficult for everyone. But doing it inside a bubble isolated from friends and family amid a global pandemic and a summer of racial reckoning provided even more challenges for this season’s rookie class.

Hebard, whom the Sky picked eighth overall during the WNBA’s first virtual draft in April, has taken everything thrown at her over the last nine months in stride. Even after

Oregon’s storybook season was cut short without an NCAA Tournament, Hebard remained positive and optimistic about the future.

Hebard, a 6-4 forward known for her efficient scoring, didn’t get a traditional training camp before the start of this season. And the league’s condensed schedule, with many games happening on one-day rest, made it difficult to practice on a consistent basis. Both those factors, she said, contributed to her “up-and-down” season.

“[We weren’t] able to practice as much as I would have liked. We kind of jumped into games and stuff, which was tough for me,” Hebard told the Sun-Times in a phone interview after the season. “We also played back to back, so that was definitely hard, too. . . . Our practices were lighter and shorter and they weren’t full practices, so it’s definitely harder when you don’t practice and don’t get the rhythm going as much as I would like.”

Hebard started six of the 22 games, averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.5 minutes. She posted her first WNBA double-double against the Fever on Aug. 31, recording 12 points and 11 rebounds. Another highlight was her breakout performance in the regular-season finale against the Wings in which she totaled 22 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two assists.

Center Stefanie Dolson was impressed with Hebard’s professionalism and thought the 22-year-old handled the season “amazingly.”

Coach James Wade also lauded Hebard’s maturity.

“She carried herself well,” Wade said. “She was so focused on what she needed to do. She wasn’t used to playing at this speed or playing at this level of preciseness that you have to have and all this attention to detail that you have to have. . . . I felt like she handled it well even in times when you saw she struggled. Even during times when we threw her in the fire, when we made her start the game guarding Candace Parker or start the playoff game guarding Alyssa Thomas, it was tough, it was tough. But she responded, and this is only going to be a learning lesson for her.”

Hebard’s biggest struggles came on defense. Dolson believes if Hebard works on that, she has a “great future” ahead of her.

“A player like her is someone that any team could have and could use,” Dolson said. “She will probably always have a job just with the poise that she has as a post player because it’s not easy to find. She’s aggressive, she’s confident, but . . . she doesn’t really take bad shots. It’s just the type of game any team would love to have and I know that we’re happy to have.”

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