Sabrina Ionescu will take her triple-double master’s degree across the country.
The Oregon goaltender was selected No. 1 overall by the New York Liberty in the WNBA draft on Friday. Ionescu, who was the first presumed pick in the 2020 draft since returning to Oregon for his senior season, was selected because the league completed a “virtual” draft on ESPN; the recruits were at home, as was the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, when the choices were announced, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have worked for this throughout my basketball career and I am very excited to see it come to fruition,” said Ionescu from his home in California. “I am very humble and excited for this opportunity. ”
Perhaps in a first sign of what’s to come in terms of weight and popularity of merchandising with Ionescu, his fans rushed to the team’s website to pick up his new Liberty jersey, which sold out. within an hour of writing # 1.
Meanwhile, his Ducks teammate Satou Sabally was shortlisted second overall by the Dallas Wings. It was only the fourth time in the history of the WNBA draft that the first two choices came from the same program.
Sabally was also one of three German players selected for the draft, along with center Luisa Geiselsoder (# 21 in Dallas) and shooter Leonie Fiebich (# 22 in Los Angeles).
“German culture in Dallas is growing and I’m just very excited,” said Sabally, who then received a cry on Twitter from fellow countryman Dirk Nowitzki.
I’ll be there soon! I can not wait https://t.co/rkHHyG169y
– Satou Sabally (@BallySatou) April 18, 2020
Lauren Cox of Baylor finished third ahead of Indiana and Chennedy Carter of Texas A&M was Atlanta’s fourth choice. Dallas took Bella Alarie with the fifth choice. The Princeton star was only the second player in the Ivy League to be drafted this high; Harvard’s Allison Feaster was also selected fifth in the 1998 draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.
“I was really nervous, and finally hearing my name called calmed those nerves,” said Cox. “My sisters threw confetti at me, we hugged them and really enjoyed it.”
Minnesota selected Mikiah Herbert Harrigan of South Carolina with the sixth pick. Dallas drafted South Carolina guard Tyasha Harris seventh overall and Chicago took Oregon forward Ruthy Hebard eighth, the Ducks’ third player drafted in the first round.
“We are all so excited for each other,” said Ionescu. “We have been talking to each other all this time and we are just delighted to see where they are going. She (Hebard) deserves it and Satou too – really blessed to have this opportunity.”
New York took UConn striker Megan Walker ninth and Phoenix selected Jocelyn Willoughby 10th. The Mercury then traded the Virginia wing in New York for Shatori Walker-Kimbrough.
Latvian sniper Kitija Laksa placed 11th in Seattle.
The Liberty completed the first round by selecting Louisville goalkeeper Jazmine Jones, the third first round pick New York will be able to pair with Ionescu next season.
“Being part of a younger team and trying to learn from them and see where I stand and what role I will play is exciting,” said Ionescu. “I plan to bring the competitive spirit that I have, and I’m just thrilled to get there with the team and use my platform and continue what I have done in Oregon and d ‘bring that to Liberty. “
Ionescu recorded an NCAA record with 26 triple doubles in his Ducks career and became the first male or female basketball player to reach the 2000-1000-1000 point (2,562) rebound ( 1,040) and assists (1,091).
Ionescu reached the final milestone, bouncing back, in a February 24 win at Stanford. Earlier that day in Los Angeles, she spoke at the memorial to her mentor, former Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who was killed with her daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash on January 26.
“I think you should look no further than how she behaved in times of crisis to find out what type of leader she is,” said new Liberty coach Walt Hopkins, who was hired in January . “And what type of leader she could be at the next level.”
Last season, Ionescu averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists while shooting 51.8% on the field, 39.2% at 3 points and 92.1% from line. She started each game for the 31-2 Ducks, who won regular season titles and Pac-12 tournaments. She led Oregon to two Elite Eights and an appearance in the Final Four during her four-year career there.
Ionescu is the first Oregon player selected No. 1 in the WNBA Draft, and the fifth Pac-12 player since the first No. 1 selection, USC Tina Thompson in 1997 by Houston. The others were the sisters Ogwumike of Stanford, Nneka (2012, Los Angeles) and Chiney (2014, Connecticut), and Kelsey Plum of Washington (2017, San Antonio, today Las Vegas).
It was the first time that Liberty, one of the original franchises when the WNBA was launched in 1997, had selection # 1. The franchise belonged to James Dolan of Madison Square Garden Co. before it went on sale to the end of 2017. Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai bought the Liberty before the 2019 season, and they are expected to play at the Barclays Center this season. The Liberty also underwent a logo overhaul this week to more closely resemble the Nets.
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma breaks down former Oregon stars Sabrina Ionescu and Satou Sabally in the latest version of the revolutionary sports analysis program. Watch on ESPN +
“I’ve only been to New York twice, but I’m really excited to be able to go to Brooklyn and just enjoy the city and start playing,” said Ionescu.
Ionescu quickly becomes the iconic Liberty player, while former UConn star Tina Charles, MVP WNBA 2012, was traded in Washington on Wednesday. The three-team deal, which also included the Wings, brought the number of Friday Liberty picks to six: Nos 1, 9, 12, 13, 15 and 26.
There was no doubt that Ionescu would be the first choice; It was also expected that she would go first as a junior eligible for the draft in 2019 before choosing to return to Oregon in pursuit of a national championship. The Ducks were not so fortunate because of the cancellation of the NCAA tournament. It was a big blow to seniors across the country, but the project helped to look into the future – even if it is not known when, or if, the WNBA may have its season in 2020.
The 24th season of the league was scheduled to start on May 15 but has been postponed.
Ionescu had a taste for playing against the pros in November, when the Ducks defeated the American national team 93-86 at an exhibition in Eugene, Oregon. Although the United States did not line up their full national team, it was still a collection of some of the best players in the WNBA, against whom Ionescu had 30 points and seven assists.
She said she knew that as the number one choice, she would have a lot of eyes – and veterans looking to challenge her.
“I’ve had a goal on my back for four years, so it’s not going to be new,” said Ionescu during a Zoom conference call before the draft. “I’m just delighted to learn from [veterans] and build friendships along the way. I know it’s going to be difficult, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of facing some of the best players in the world. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.