INTERVIEW: SATOU SABALLY

Satou Sabally could become the next German player in the WNBA as the 21-year-old is playing her third year with the Oregon Ducks. Sabally showed she’s one of the team’s top players in scoring 25 points in Oregon’s 93-68 victory over the USA women’s national team on November 9, 2019 – the first college to accomplish that since the Tennessee Lady Volunteers in 1999. She took time to talk about the historic win, her team being more popular than Oregon’s men’s team and her desire to play with her sister.

Satou Sabally // Photo by Getty Images

Have you processed what you and Oregon accomplished as the first college team to beat the women’s USA national team in 20 years?
Satou Sabally: Not really. (Laughs) Afterwards we celebrated a little and kept saying: “Oh my god, we beat them!”. But we couldn’t believe it. In the plane (to Germany to play for the women’s national team) I looked at all the pictures – that was cool. But I still haven’t really processed it all. 

Before the game, you had the chance to talk to Diana Taurasi – a three-time WNBA champion and nine-time All-Star. What did you talk about?
She just talked about his college career, what tips she received and talked about Geno Auriemma – her former coach at UConn, who is very beloved and well-known. What she gave us was: “Stay mad.” That you always have to stay hungry and be ready to give everything. We had that in our heads the whole time, and in the pre-game huddle we said: “One, two, three – stay mad!”

Last season Oregon reached the Final Four for the first time and you were ranked No. 1 this pre-season for the first time as well. Did the team pay attention to all the recognition?
For sure. We have the best player in the world on our team (Sabrina Ionescu, who is likely the No. 1 pick in the next WNBA Draft). The attention that we are receiving is immense. But we are trying to block it all out … we just have to do that. We can enjoy it a little but we can’t let it get to our heads. But none of us are players who are arrogant and think: “We are the shit!” (laughs) just because someone says we’re No. 1. We have to prove that and go into every game as if we were not No. 1.

The Ducks’ men’s team has twice reached the NCAA Final Four – but missed the NCAA Tournament entirely in 2018. Is your team starting to get more of the attention?
That is actually happening. We are getting a lot more attention at the moment than the men’s team. But they are still good. Last year they won the PAC-12 tournament, which we didn’t. They reached the Sweet 16. Still, I believe that the fans really love us at the moment. First of all, we stay longer in college than the men do – so we kind of grow up with the fans. They can get to know us better. And secondly, we are very successful at the moment – we made history. There were 11,530 people in the arena and it was only an exhibition game.

Satou Sabally // Photo by Getty Images

What are your thoughts about women’s basketball in Germany?
It is a big problem here in Germany that women don’t receive any attention. Of course you can say that they have to achieve more but there also must be more support. What I am experiencing here in Oregon is that best thing for me because we have more spectators than the men. Women’s basketball is good, and a lot of people know that. But it’s still not that popular. It’s very difficult to watch a WNBA game because ESPN doesn’t push it. It’s also very difficult to see NCAA women’s college basketball highlights – the men’s highlights are everywhere. It’s just about women’s basketball being pushed more. And then more money will come in.

You have said that you have to think about heading to the WNBA Draft after your third year in college. For the past year, your younger sister Nyara is also with the Ducks – although she will miss the 2019-20 season with another torn ACL. How big is your desire to play with your sister in college?
On the one hand, I definitely want to play with my sister. It would be a factor in deciding against starting my professional career after this season. On the other hand, it also shows that an athlete’s career can be over very quickly and it’s very fragile.

Your younger brother Lamin also plays basketball at a prep school in Arizona. It might be a mean question but which of you was the most talented at age 17?
I always say me because then I don’t have to compare my siblings with one another. 

by FIVE Magazine #165 – Q&A with Satou Sabally – Interview: Manuel Baraniak

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