Ruthy Hebard

Ruthy Hebard Relishes Role as Spark off Bench in AU Pro Basketball

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2024 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Stephen Hunt
Mar 21, 2024

Basketball fans know Ruthy Hebard from her time with the Chicago Sky and her standout collegiate career at Oregon, where she earned countless awards and played alongside current WNBA contemporaries Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally. 

However, before hitting the hardwood in Eugene, she was a two-sport star in basketball and volleyball in Anchorage, Alaska, a unique upbringing she wouldn’t trade for anything.

“It was fun. I didn’t know much else other than Alaska and the competition there,” Hebard said. “It shaped me into who I am, to be a competitor, not always the first noticed, the underdog, but to go out, have fun, and be myself. I know that can carry me far. I’m blessed to be from there.”

And even though it’s been a few years since she last played volleyball, she sees serious carry-over in the skills needed to succeed at both sports.

“I see lots of volleyball and basketball players have the same builds. I miss volleyball. It was so much fun,” Hebard said. “I didn’t like running as much growing up, so volleyball was one of my favorites to go out there, jump, and hit the ball. The footwork carries over. You have to have good footwork in both, hand-eye coordination. All that is similar (for both sports) in those aspects.”

The Athletes Unlimited Pro Basketball newcomer recently signed with the Minnesota Lynx after four seasons with the Sky. She was the No. 8 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, helping lead the Sky to the 2021 WNBA title.

Like many players who come to AU, Hebard has embraced its unique format of potentially having different teammates each week.

“It’s been really fun but also it’s (great) learning from new people every week, learning styles and stuff,” Hebard said.

“It makes me a better player to know that Natasha (Cloud) likes this as opposed to Odyssey (Sims) likes this. It’s fun. It’s challenging. I like to challenge myself.”

In her first few weeks in AU, she’s already earned high marks from her captains, including Odyssey Sims in Week Two, for doing what she does best, providing a spark off the bench. 

“That’s crazy to hear that,” Hebard said of the heady praise from Sims. “I like to do that, be a spark off the bench. I want to come in and provide the same energy as the starters and show them that I can hang with them too.”

Like AU, another recent change is becoming a mother in April 2023 with the birth of her son, Xzavier. 

“It (motherhood) has been challenging too but it’s amazing. It’s fun,” Hebard said. “It’s so rewarding and I’m having a blast being a mom. He’s about to be one next month. I can’t believe that. It makes my heart happy.”


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Hebard also has considerable experience playing overseas, logging minutes in Hungary, Italy, and Turkey thus far. 

“(I loved) meeting new people, trying new food, and just playing. Basketball is obviously universal and it’s fun to be able to go overseas and learn the different cultures while also playing basketball and seeing that basketball brings people together,” Hebard said. 

“No matter what you look like, how you talk, all that stuff, when you’re on the court and in that gym with all the fans, it’s all like a family. It’s all fun. It’s all competition. It’s just fun. Hopefully, I can go back overseas in the next few years.”

Hebard said Italian was the easiest of the three languages to pick up, a transition made easier because of a book of English words in Italian that a teammate made her. 

Hebard is playing for Chapter 510, an organization based in Oakland, California which provides youth with writing, bookmaking, and publishing opportunities by connecting teaching artists and volunteers with educators. 

“When AU was talking about causes, I wanted something I care about. I really care about kids and I’m big into reading and writing,” she said. “You put that together and this is perfect. 

“It’d be so fun for me growing up if I had a safe space with other kids who enjoyed this to come together to write, read, be imaginative, and creative together. I wanted to support that and give back because that’s something I’d love to be a part of even after AU to help kids not just in Oakland but all over the place to have safe spaces to be themselves.”


Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.

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