Athlete of the Week: Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard returns to WNBA court following birth of son

Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 11:07 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Fairbanks’ Ruthy Hebard is a three-time Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year, an AP All-American at Oregon, a WNBA first-round draft pick selection and forward for the Chicago Sky. However, she recently gained a new title that, to her, overtakes all of those.

The 2022-23 WNBA offseason started off like any other for Hebard, playing overseas, this time for KSC Szekszárd in Hungary.

That was until she started to notice changes in her body.

“I was like, ‘I am playing a lot of minutes so I don’t really know why I am getting a lot bigger,’” Hebard recalled after a shootaround with the Chicago Sky. “I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I am just eating too much’ ... so I changed my diet and stuff and I was still getting bigger.

“We had a break in January, I went to Portland and found out.”

Hebard was five to six months pregnant.

“I flew to Chicago and I did yoga and weights and basketball training and running every day up until the day I had him,” Hebard said.

On April 11, 2023, Xzavier Reid was born.

”I have people asking if I need help babysitting, if I need anything more for him. He is pretty spoiled, the fans give him stuff, he’s very loved and he’s going to have a good life,” Hebard said. “I can’t wait to bring him home to Alaska.”

And just about 12 weeks later, Hebard returned to the court and doesn’t appear to have missed a step. In just her fifth game back, Hebard netted nine points and hauled in three rebounds in just 10 minutes of action.

”I feel actually really good,” Hebard said. “I think just going through pregnancy and after not being directly back on the court actually made me stronger and just a little bit more confident.”

And while she made her return look as smooth as her game in the low post, it wasn’t an easy journey for Alaska’s lone WNBA player.

“Honestly, there was some doubts, especially when I first started running on the treadmill, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I feel so slow, it’s not comfortable, am I ever going to be able to run like how I used to run? Is my back always going to hurt? Are my hips always going to hurt?” Hebard said.

“Definitely a lot of mental ups and downs,” Hebard added. “I pushed through and then I think I am playing some of the best basketball actually since I have been in the league so I am actually proud of myself.”

Hebard is now a mother first before and an athlete and hopes to provide the same loving environment she received when she was adopted in Chicago and raised in Fairbanks, while still playing at the highest level in the sport.

”Make sure he has everything like my parents did. I am trying to be like my mom. Now I am realizing the things I rolled my eyes at that my mom did I’m like, ‘I’m going to do the same thing,’” Hebard said. “Just learning from all of those great parental figures I had and being tough, I think Alaskans are tough.”

Adding, “Being a mom that is a badass and just doing more than just motherhood, showing females that we can do everything, really.”