Being named to U18 national team still sinking in for Hebard

June 2, 2016

Ruthy Hebard basketball

Ruthy Hebard

Hours after the final practice of the USA Basketball U18 women’s national team tryouts, all 30 players that participated gathered inside a gymnasium awaiting the final word.

One by one team officials read in alphabetical order the names of the 12 players that made the team.

Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks was so anxious she almost didn’t hear her name called.

“I was waiting for him to just kind of skip over it,” she told me.

After further review, though, she discovered she had indeed made the U18 national team that will compete at next month’s FIBA Americas Championships in Chile.

“I had to go back and make sure they called my name,” she said. “I’m just really happy I made the team.”

Despite being bound for the University of Oregon and being a three-time Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year, the 6-foot-4 forward never allowed herself to think about surviving the final cut.

“There were some sessions I did well and some where I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not making the team,’” Hebard said with a laugh. “I had up and down days, but I know I can play better.

“When we go to practice I think I’m going to surprise them because I’m going to be even more comfortable now.”

Hebard, of West Valley High fame, will leave for Eugene, Oregon, in two weeks and then on July 1 join the national team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a week-plus of practice and preparation for the international tournament.

“We got USA big travel bags, so we can look like a team all the time,” she said. “When we get back we will get jerseys and travel gear, sports bras, spandex, socks and shoes. I’m so excited.”

Hebard, 18, participated at the U16 national team tryouts in 2014, but didn’t make the cut. She came back this time more polished.

The thing that stood out most at the tryouts was her ability to rebound in transition, where she could utilize her speed, strength and athleticism.

“I really like rebounding off the run, you know,” she said. “So I just sort of ran and did that.”