Hebard’s big year earns her invite to U19 Team USA tryouts

April 8, 2017

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

In the last year since she graduated high school, Fairbanks basketball star Ruthy Hebard has won a gold medal with the U18 national team, earned a starting role with the Oregon Ducks, made all-league in the Pac-12 and helped her program make history.

Is that all?

Nope. Now she’s earned an invitation to try out for the U19 Team USA squad that will compete at the World Championships this summer.

“This year was great,” Hebard told me. “I am getting more confident every day. My coaches and teammates are always there to pick me up and help me get better, so it’s hard not to be confident with such an amazing environment.”

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, is just the second Alaska woman to earn all-conference honors in the Pac-12. Talisa Rhea of Juneau did it first in 2010 with Oregon State. Before that, East’s Natalie Jones of Arizona and Soldotna’s Molly Tuter of Arizona State had been named honorable mention.

The 6-foot-4 Hebard led the 23-win Ducks with a 14.9 scoring average, 8.5 rebounding average, .588 field-goal percentage and 49 steals.

She had 11 double-doubles in 37 games and flirted with a school record for shooting percentage before finishing No. 7 in Ducks history. She had 23 points and 10 rebounds in her second-ever college game and then started the next 35 straight games.

“I did not expect to be this good this fast,” Hebard said. “But playing with my team and working out with Coach Mark [Campbell] definitely helped me. He was a big factor in my confidence and improvement overall this year.”

Hebard scored the winning basket in the final seconds and then swatted away a potential game-winning shot at the buzzer to preserve Oregon’s 71-70 first-round win over Temple in the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 10 seed Ducks were playing in the NCAAs for the first time since 2005 and they ended going to the Sweet 16 for the first time, and then the Elite for the first time before falling to powerhouse UConn.

Hebard’s fingerprints were all over Oregon’s revival. Call it the Ruthy Factor.

She doesn’t crave the spotlight, though, favoring privacy over publicity.

“I am a shy person and I just love being able to play for this team,” Hebard said. “Having all the attention wouldn’t happen without the team. I owe it all to them.”

You could say it started last summer when she became the first Alaskan to be named to USA Basketball U18 Women’s National Team and then won gold at the FIBA Americas Championships in Chile.

It was her first medal from international competition, and it might not be her last.

Hebard has got to be a strong contender to make the U19 team given how well she’s played in the last year.

In some ways, her career has come full circle with the Team USA experience.

“After playing on the USA team and seeing I can hang with the girls, I was very excited to start Pac-12 play and show the world what the team could do,” she said. “I am so excited for the offseason and to improve and get even closer with this team.”