In the time since Oregon lost to Louisville in the Sweet 16, Kelly Graves’ backcourt has seen two guards transfer from the program. Junior Taylor Chavez announced Sunday that she is transferring to the University of Arizona, and sophomore Jaz Shelley announced Tuesday that she will transfer to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
In the post-Sabrina Ionescu era, Chavez and Shelley were expected to leap into starting roles and lead a young team. Both players were honorable mentions on the preseason 2020 Pac-12 All-Conference Team, as voted on by the media.
However, they battled for minutes with All-Pac-12 freshman point guard Te-Hina Paopao and Maryland transfer Taylor Mikesell. Freshmen Maddie Scherr and Sydney Parrish were also given ample playing time.
In a crowded backcourt, Chavez and Shelley struggled when they saw in-game action. The pair combined for just 8.1 points per contest, and each shot 35% from the field.
Chavez played 19 games and started nine, missing time during the season due to COVID protocols. Shelley played 22 games and started 11.
Both players were big pieces for Graves in the 2019-20 season. Chavez averaged 6.5 points per game and shot a brilliant 47.4% from three. Shelley averaged 6.3 points and knocked down 42% of her shots from three point land.
Chavez (19.0 mpg) and Shelley (17.6 mpg) actually played fewer minutes per game in 2020-21 than in 2019-20.
Replacing Sabrina Ionescu while mentoring the young backcourt was a tall task for Graves to ask of any of his guards. The ball movement was stagnant at times throughout this past season, which was to be expected of an inexperienced team.
Paopao and Mikesell proved to be an effective backcourt, starting together in a majority of games. The offense was at its best when Graves deployed this duo, as Paopao firmly entrenched herself as the starting point guard until she suffered a season-ending foot injury against USC before the Pac-12 Tournament.
The Ducks will miss the veteran presence of Chavez and Shelley as the young roster looks to mesh and build chemistry this offseason. The 2021-22 roster has only two players who were on the historic 2019-20 team--Nyara Sabally, who couldn't play because of a knee injury, and Sedona Prince who was denied eligibility after transferring from Texas.
Without Chavez and Shelley, expect the guards from the stellar 2020 recruiting class --Paopao, Scherr, and Parrish -- to improve and take on bigger roles for the Ducks. Also look for Mikesell to bounce back from a down year after posting career-lows in three-point percentage (33.3%), field goal percentage (40.4%), and scoring (9.3 PPG).
On the recruiting trail, Graves signed 4-star Taylor Bigby, a 6'1" athletic guard from Las Vegas, in November. He also signed 6'8" center Phillipina Kyei from Calgary, Alberta (Canada).
The transfer portal is another way Graves can fill out his roster, as he must also replace seniors Erin Boley and Lydia Giomi.
As of now, the Ducks will have another young backcourt. Even so, next season comes with the opportunity for the elite 2020 recruiting class to take a big step and help the Ducks return to the top of the Pac-12.
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