Ruthy Hebard’s second season in the WNBA has been an adjustment.
The Sky’s 2020 first-round draft pick arrived in Chicago after playing in Turkey and didn’t know where Wintrust Arena was. Her understanding of the city and even some of the standard happenings in the league are more in line with a player in her rookie season. It’s the result of her first year in the league being played in the WNBA bubble in Florida.
This year, Hebard has checked off certain experiences, such as playing in front of the home crowd for the first time.
“Being able to finally play in front of a home crowd, the energy in [Wintrust Arena] was so fun,” Hebard said.
In the Sky’s home opener May 23, Hebard recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds in her second start of the season.
During the 2020 season, Hebard started six games. In the Sky’s 19 games this season, she already has reached that same mark, filling in for Candace Parker when she was out with an ankle injury.
Hebard posted three double-doubles and scored in double figures in all but two of the eight games without Parker.
“Those games definitely helped establish my confidence,” Hebard said.
Parker has been another voice in Hebard’s ear coaching her up, especially during the eight-game stretch Parker was sidelined. Good or bad, Hebard said Parker is sharing valuable lessons, and that hasn’t stopped since she has returned to her starting role.
A lot has contributed to Hebard’s growth over the last year. She’s averaging 8.4 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes per game, up from her 2020 stat line of 5.7 points and four rebounds in 14.5 minutes.
The guidance from Parker can’t be overstated. But more significant than that was Hebard’s season in Turkey, which began two weeks after her rookie year concluded.
Hebard led Nesibe Aydin to a 23-10 record, posting team highs of 18.8 points and 11 rebounds per game. Her touches overseas allowed Hebard to improve her footwork and solidify her shot in the paint. Both are aspects of her game that have contributed to the Sky being third in the league in percentage of points scored in the paint. Hebard is scoring 6.3 of her 8.4 points per game inside.
“There are certain players that have a knack for the ball,” teammate Allie Quigley said. “She’s one of the fastest rollers in the league. She goes for rebounds, can defend guards and post players and she’s just been a sponge the last two years.”
The Sky (10-9) are second in the Eastern Conference with one game left before the Olympic break. They host the Washington Mystics at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Quigley is the unquestioned leader of the team’s bench, which has helped propel the Sky to an 8-2 record and the second-best offensive rating in the league over the last 10 games. In that stretch, the bench has averaged 34.1 of the team’s 87.5 points per game, second-best in the league.
Hebard was one of seven Sky players among the WNBA’s top 36 vote-getters for the 2021 All-Star Game.
“We know we’re a really good bench,” -Hebard said. “If we can defend Candace and Sloot [Courtney Vandersloot], we’re going to be able to defend anybody we go up against.”