Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Sabrina Ionescu goes No. 1 in WNBA Draft to New York Liberty as she lives for God

The New York Liberty may have found their star of the future in Oregon point guard Sabrina Ionescu.

As was widely anticipated, the Liberty drafted Ionescu No. 1 overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft held virtually on Friday due to the coronavirus outbreak. Her new Liberty jersey sold out within an hour of her being drafted No. 1.

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“I’ve been working for this for my entire basketball career and super excited to see that come to fruition,” Ionescu told ESPN from her home in California. “I’m very humbled and excited for the opportunity.”

Ionescu’s Oregon teammates Satou Sabally (No. 2 to the Dallas Wings) and Ruthy Hebard (No. 8 to the Chicago Sky) were also drafted in the top 10.

“We’re all so excited for each other,” Ionescu said. “We’ve been talking to each other this whole time and just excited to see where they go. [Hebard] deserves it and so does [Sabally] — just really blessed to have this opportunity.”

Ionescu garnered national attention over her junior and senior years at Oregon thanks in part to her NCAA-record 26 career triple-doubles. She is the first men’s or women’s college basketball player to score 2,000 points, grab 1,000 rebounds and dish out 1,000 assists.

She set that unprecedented mark, as well as notched her 26th triple-double, on the same day that she also spoke at the memorial service for Kobe Bryant, her longtime basketball mentor.

On Twitter — where she states, “Just pray – God is good” — she marveled at the symmetry of the feat:

After helping the Oregon women reach their first Final Four in 2019, Ionescu opted to return for her senior season, in which she helped the Ducks to a 31-2 record. They would have been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and strong candidates to reach their first NCAA title game, but the tournament was canceled due to coronavirus. The Oregon women finished No. 2 in the 2019-20 AP rankings, behind South Carolina.

Ionescu’s time at Oregon not only helped her become a star in the game, but she said in the Spring 2019 issue of Sports Spectrum Magazine that college “100 percent deepened my faith just because I’m away from home. There’s so many more obstacles and adversity that you fight when you leave.”

She was raised in a Christian home by Romanian parents who would pray with her every night before bed. That practice is something Ionescu carried on with her teammates at Oregon.

“We pray as a team before every game,” she told Sports Spectrum, adding, “I love my teammates, love my coaches. I do everything for them and try to have Christ live through me.”

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