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Oregon Women’s Basketball’s Deja Kelly Reveals Why She Transferred

EUGENE – The former University of North Carolina guard Deja Kelly will join the Oregon women’s basketball program in the coming season, and she is eager to bring a winning culture back to Oregon women’s basketball.  

“I wanted to go to a place where I knew I could develop into a pro, and I am really excited to be a part of and spend my last season with [Oregon],” Kelly told Go Ducks editor-in-chief Rob Mosely.

Feb 9, 2024; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Members of the Oregon Ducks huddle in the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 9, 2024; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Members of the Oregon Ducks huddle in the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

At UNC, Kelly was a three-time first-team All-ACC selection and the program’s eighth-leading scorer all-time with 1,851 career points.   

Kelly averaged 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and three assists during her collegiate career. She started all four years and led the Tar Heels in scoring the past three seasons.  

“Deja is a game changer”

– Kelly Graves

“She is a prolific scorer and such a unique talent who elevates everyone around her,” said Oregon coach Kelly Graves. “She is a really skilled ball-handler who can create her own shot and create for teammates, but she can also play off the ball and knock down the three while also playing great perimeter defense.”   

Former Duck Sabrina Ionescu, left, meets Oregon women's basketball coach Kelly Graves after the Duck   s exhibition game against Southern Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena Oct 29, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon.

Former Duck Sabrina Ionescu, left, meets Oregon women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves after the Duck s exhibition game against Southern Oregon at Matthew Knight Arena Oct 29, 2023 in Eugene, Oregon. / Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA

Kelly is looking forward to her move to Eugene and plans to help the team win in the Big Ten Conference.   

“We’re ready to compete,” Kelly told Mosely.  

The 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons established Oregon as a dominant force in women’s basketball. After making a final-four run in the 2018-19 season, the Ducks, led by Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Satou Sabally, were favorites to win a national championship in 2020.   

Oregon's Minyon Moore, left, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard celebrate together after defeating Washington in the last regular season home game.

Oregon’s Minyon Moore, left, Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Ruthy Hebard celebrate together after defeating Washington in the last regular season home game. / Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via

“Watching players like Sabrina, like Satou, you know, just from that group was definitely factored into my decision,” Kelly told Mosely. “Watching their development, specifically Sabrina…that definitely played a big part.”  

Former Duck Sabrina Ionescu currently stars for the New York Liberty and Satou Sabally plays for the Dallas Wings in the WNBA.

In late February, Oregon beat Washington State, 88-57, before a sellout crowd at Matthew Knight Arena to win its third straight Pac-12 regular-season conference title. However, less than a week later, the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season.  

The Ducks finished 31-2,15-0 at home and ended the season on a 19-game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 26 points.   

Mar 22, 2024; Columbia, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Courtney Banghart speaks with guard Deja Kelly (25) against the Michigan State Spartans in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 22, 2024; Columbia, SC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Courtney Banghart speaks with guard Deja Kelly (25) against the Michigan State Spartans in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks have yet to get back to that level of success, and newcomer Kelly wants to change this.   

“Just being able to add value to an already really good roster… I’m excited to see what we can do and what we do.”  

Feb 9, 2024; Boulder, Colorado, USA; General view of the Oregon Ducks bench during the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 9, 2024; Boulder, Colorado, USA; General view of the Oregon Ducks bench during the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon‘s program also includes more transfers in Texas’ Amina Muhammad, Arizona’s Salimatou Kourouma, Washington’s Ari Long, BYU’s Nani Falatea, UC Santa Barbara’s Alexis Whitfield, and Siena’s Elisa Mevius. These players, along with Kelly, are to give the Oregon women’s basketball team a boost in the upcoming season.   

“Her basketball IQ, drive, and work ethic are second to none,” said Graves. “She is a tremendous leader with high character who will make an immediate impact on our program.” 

Anna Harden

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