Whether leading the Oregon women’s basketball team to the Final Four or Team USA to the women’s 3x3 title at the Pan American Games Lima 2019, Sabrina Ionescu is a difference-maker.
The New York Liberty will be the next beneficiaries of Ionescu’s considerable talent after making the point guard the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft on Friday night.
Ionescu’s teammate both at Oregon and on the victorious 3x3 Pan Am Games team, Ruthy Hebard, was chosen by the Chicago Sky at No. 8, and several members of the U.S. women’s 5x5 basketball team that won the silver medal at last year’s Pan Am Games were also selected in the first round of the draft. The Atlanta Dream selected Chennedy Carter from Texas A&M at No. 4, while the Dallas Wings chose Bella Alarie from Princeton at No. 5 and Tyasha Harris from South Carolina at No. 7.
In addition, four other Pan Am Games teammates were selected in later rounds. They were Kathleen Doyle (No. 14, Indiana Fever), Brittany Brewer (No. 17, Atlanta), Beatrice Mompremier (No. 20, Los Angeles Sparks) and Mikayla Pivec (No. 25, Atlanta).
Ionescu was widely projected to go first overall. Over the course of her career at Oregon she racked up virtually every award a women’s college basketball player could receive. From the USBWA national freshman of the year to the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation’s top point guard as a sophomore to the John R. Wooden Award given to the player of the year in 2019 and 2020 — with a whole other host of accolades — Ionescu has long been a superstar of the women’s college game. She is the only college player ever, man or woman, to total 2,000 career points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds.
Ionescu also played on a number of U.S. national teams, including the 2017 U23 team that won the inaugural U24 Four Nations Tournament title and the 2014 U17 World Cup Team that went undefeated and won the gold medal in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
She first played 3x3 in April 2018 when she and three of her Oregon teammates entered the USA Basketball 3x3 national championship tournament at the United States Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and won. Ionescu admitted later that she had to ask what the rules were before the games began.
Then this past summer Ionescu led a team that included Hebard to the gold medal as 3x3 basketball made its debut at the Pan American Games, going 7-0 en route to the title. 3x3 basketball will make its Olympic debut in 2021.
Because of shelter-in-place and physical distancing rules, the draft was held remotely with WNBA staff, team personnel and players all communicating from their homes. Prior to the first pick, the WNBA held an honorary draft where they selected, in alphabetical order, Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester, who were all killed in the tragic January helicopter crash that also claimed the life of Kobe Bryant.