Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard sees new heights, cities in Year 2 of WNBA career

Published: Jun. 29, 2021 at 7:14 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Although Chicago Sky Forward Ruthy Hebard is in her sophomore season in the WNBA, the Fairbanks, Alaska product is experiencing much of the life as a pro for the first time.

Hebard’s entire rookie campaign was spent in the WNBA Bubble at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, without fans, flights around the country or the aspects that come life on the road.

About midway through year two in the ‘W’ with several true road games under her belt, Hebard is absorbing and learning it all - both on and off the court.

The former West Valley standout has improved in nearly every major statistical category from year one, taking advantage of an increased role: 2020 ---> 2021

Points per game: 5.7 ---> 8.9

Rebounds per game: 3.9 ---> 6.1

Assists: 0.3 ---> 1.1

Blocks: 0.4 ---> 0.9

Steals: 0.5 ---> 1.0

Minutes: 14.5 ---> 21.6

While getting more comfortable on the court, Hebard is starting to get accustomed to road life as well, which comes with both its highlights and challenges - like exploring New York City for the first time or having to take long flights around the country.

“I mean it is fun to be with the team, it is fun to see different places. For me, this is my first year traveling and just seeing all of the gyms,” Hebard said after practice in Dallas, Texas. “But I think it is hard because you’re not in your own bed, you’re in a hotel room so you can’t really do much. You don’t want to get tired for practice, but you don’t also don’t want to lay in bed all day. It gets tiring, but we are sticking through it.”

Part of the five-game road trip included a pair of contests with the New York Liberty, with Hebard squaring off against former Oregon Ducks teammate Sabrina Ionescu for the first time in their pro careers, as the former number one overall pick missed most of the 2020 season due to an ankle injury.

Teammates on the court for four years and brining Oregon Women’s Basketball to new heights, Hebard shared the new perspective of where they are today - at the highest level of their respective sport.

“It is crazy because this is what we worked so hard for in college, this is what we did everyday, this is what we talked about, this is what we cried about, all that stuff,” she said. “It is just really fun to be able to see her reach where she wants to be and I am where I want to be.”

The Sky came away victorious in both games, part of their seven game win streak. Helping lead the charge on that streak, which was snapped Sunday against the Connecticut Sun, is fellow Chicago forward Candace Parker, who missed eight games this season battling an ankle injury.

While playing similar positions with similar frames, Parker and Hebard are at very different points in their career. Parker’s 14-year resume is a lock for the Hall of Fame, while Hebard has yet to complete her second season, allowing the former Duck to learn all she can from one of the best players in the league.

“She is just an amazing player and an amazing person,” Hebard said of the former WNBA MVP. “She talks to me throughout practice, she tells me in games what to do, so it is really helpful to see stuff from her view. It is nice to know that she knows what I can do, and knows I can be a good player.

“While she was out, she would tell me something, I would go out on the court and try it and it would be good. It is just a blessing to be able to have her on Chicago and to be able to learn from her, watch what she does and try to pick up as much as I can.”

Whether at Oregon, in Chicago or playing in Turkey during the WNBA offseason, Hebard has a fanbase in Fairbanks and in Alaska that will never thaw out.

“Fairbanks, thanks for always supporting me,” she added as a shoutout. “I am trying to come back eventually and run some camps and give back to all the people that gave to me growing up, that helped me and believed in me. I see you guys and I hear you guys.”

The Sky (9-8) will conclude their extended road trip with a pair of games against the Dallas Wings June 30 and July 2.

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