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Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard leads Turkish club to playoff semis as her WNBA team stacks talent

Published: Apr. 22, 2021 at 5:04 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - It has been nonstop basketball for Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard over the last calendar year - and she wouldn’t want it any other way. After being drafted 8th overall by the Chicago Sky last April, Hebard soon stationed in the WNBA Bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida for her rookie year. Just two weeks after appearing in all 23 games for the Sky, the former West Valley standout flew half way across the world to Ankara, Turkey to begin her first overseas campaign in the Women’s Basketball Super League with KBSL’s Nesibe Aydin.

Outside of a short trip back to Fairbanks for the first time since draft night, Hebard has spent the last seven months in a new country, grasping bits of a new language and leading her team to new heights.

During the 26-game regular season, Hebard propelled Nesibe Aydin to a 19-7 record, setting the tone on both sides of the floor. The former Oregon Duck is currently pacing her squad with team-highs of 19.6 points per game, 11.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 226 made field goals, while also collecting 1.7 steals. Continuing the efficiency that led to an NCAA record, Hebard is shooting 54.6% from the floor and 80.9% from the free throw line, getting to charity stripe more frequently than any other player on her team. She was named the KBSL Player of the Week for Round 17 following a 27-point, 14-rebound performance in an 84-70 win over Adana Basket.

Nesibe Aydin took care Mersin in two games in the opening round of the playoffs, with Hebard stuffing the stat sheet in the series clincher, producing 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks. Now, they will turn their attentions towards Galatasaray, a team that went 23-3 on the season, good for 2nd place in the KBSL standings. Round 1 will tip-off Friday, with Round 2 scheduled for April 25 and Round 3 (if necessary) set for April 28.

Meanwhile, Hebard’s WNBA team - the Chicago Sky - have been loading up for the upcoming season. Looking to improve upon their first round exit of the playoffs at the hands of the Connecticut Sun, Chicago made a splash in the offseason by signing one of the best forwards in the league. In January, the Sky acquired two-time league MVP Candance Parker via free agency, coming off a Defensive Player of the Year season with the Los Angeles Sparks. The former No. 1 overall draft pick will be bringing quite the resume to the Windy City.

- WNBA Champion + Finals MVP (2016)

- 2x WNBA MVP (2008, 2013)

- 5x WNBA All-Star (2011, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018)

- 9x All-WNBA (2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020)

- WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020)

- WNBA Rookie of the Year

- 5,684 career points (14th all-time), 2,902 rebounds (9th), 545 blocks (8th) — 16.9ppg - 8.6rpg - 3.9apg - 1.6bpg - 1.3spg - 48.2/33.7/76.1

Not a bad mentor for fellow forward Ruthy Hebard.

James Wade, the General Manager and Head Coach of the Sky, also added three-year veteran Lexi Brown and drafted Shyla Heal with the 8th pick in the 2021 draft - the same spot where Hebard was selected in 2020.

By way of Kogarah, New South Wales, Australia, Heal began playing professional basketball at the age of 14 with the South East Queensland Stars. Most recently, she averaged 25.3 points and 7.3 assists per game with the Townsville Fire, earning the 2020 WNBL Player of the Year honors.

While there is still unfinished business for Hebard and many other WNBA players wrapping up their overseas seasons, mark the calendar for May 15 when the Sky tip-off their 2021 campaign against the Washington Mystics.

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