Sabrina Ionescu Comes Up Big in Moments On and Off the Court

Monday was an eventful day for Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, as the star point guard spoke at the memorial service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant in Los Angeles before traveling north to record a triple-double in a win at Stanford.

The presumed No. 1 over all pick in this year’s W.N.B.A. draft, Ionescu is looking increasingly like the future face of women’s basketball.

A star basketball player for the University of Oregon for the last four seasons, Ionescu became even more well known when she spoke at Kobe and Gianna Bryant’s memorial service in Los Angeles on Monday.

Kobe and Gianna went to an Oregon game and met Ionescu afterward. They remained in touch, and Ionescu worked out with Gianna and texted with Kobe, who offered basketball advice.

“I grew up watching Kobe Bryant, game after game, ring after ring. Living his greatness without apology. I wanted to be just like him.”

“His vision for others is always bigger than they imagine for themselves. His vision for me was way bigger than my own.”

“I wanted to be part of the generation that changed basketball with Gigi and her teammates. Where being born female didn’t mean being born behind. Where greatness isn’t divided by gender.”

“I still text him even though he’s not here: ‘Thank you for everything. The rest is for you. Rest easy my guy.’ The last one I sent him said: ‘I miss you. May you rest in peace my dear friend.’ The texts go through, but no response. It still feels like he’s there on the other end. That the next time I pick up my phone he would have hit me back.”

Her parents were born in Romania and emigrated in 1990 after the revolution there. Sabrina was born in California and was one of the most coveted high school recruits in basketball, choosing Oregon.

A 5-foot-11 point guard, she won gold medals with the American under-17 and under-23 teams. At Oregon, she was the college national freshman of the year. As a sophomore, she was named point guard of the year, and as a junior last season she repeated as point guard of the year while also winning both the Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award, which are presented annually to the top collegiate player.

She has been racking up the statistical achievements. She has more triple-doubles, 26, than any collegian, male or female. She holds Oregon’s career records in points, assists and 3-pointers. She surpassed Gary Payton as the Pac-12’s career assists leader.

When she arrived at Oregon, the team had not made the N.C.A.A. tournament in 12 years. With Ionescu in the lineup, Oregon made the final eight of the tournament two straight years and the Final Four last season.

Ionescu flew from the memorial service to Stanford for a game. Oregon won, 74-66, and although she missed the shoot-around and warm-ups, she scored 21 points with 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

She also became the first player to reach 2,000 career points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in a collegiate career.

“That one was for him,” she told ESPN. “To do it on 2-24-20 was huge. I can’t put it into words. He’s looking down and proud of me and happy for this moment with my team.”

Stephen Curry, another friend, watched from the baseline, attending an Oregon game for the second time in four days.

Oregon is 26-2, ranked No. 3 and favored for another trip to the Final Four in Ionescu’s final year. Many are projecting her as the top pick in the W.N.B.A. draft, a pick held by the New York Liberty.

Sahred From Source link Sports

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