There’s been an upswing in the success of Oregon basketball on the whole the last few years. Tournament runs are going deeper than they have before, coaches are establishing themselves as top-tier in the country, and recruiting classes are at unprecedented levels.
But amongst the great teams, facilities, and quickly mounting victories there is one thing Oregon can finally stake claim to which it hasn’t been able to for quite some time; a transcendent basketball player. That player right now is Sabrina Ionescu.
Born of Romanian decent and speaking the language fluently, Ionescu hails from the bay area in California. Her twin brother Edward currently plays basketball at City College of San Francisco. She quickly made a name for herself as one the premier high school basketball players in the country at Miramonte High School in Orinda.
Only starting half the games she played in as a freshman Ionescu still averaged 13.8 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.9 steals. Miramonte compiled a 27-3 record and by her sophomore season they were 30-2. By her junior year Ionescu was averaging 18.7points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 4.7 steals. Miramonte was again 30-2.
By her final season Ionescu had established herself as one of the best high school players in America, posting averages of 25.3 points, 8.8 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 4.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks. Miramonte lost in the championship game to Chaminade but Ionescu posted a triple double with 24 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. She was USA Today Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Max Preps Player of the Year, and Gatorade State Player of the Year. With 25 points and 10 rebounds, she was also named the McDonald’s All-American Game MVP. She left Miramonte with a record of 119-9 on the hardwood.
Ionescu obviously had her pick of top-notch colleges to play at after compiling this kind of resume’, including staying in the bay area to play for perennial power Stanford. However, head coach and recruiting guru Kelly Graves lured her to the emerald valley to join a Ducks squad boasting its highest-rated class ever.
The star-studded group didn’t disappoint as they stormed to the championship game of the Pac 12 Tournament and the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament despite actually having a worse regular-season record than the season prior. Ionescu’s success from high school carried over as she averaged 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. She was awarded USBWA National Freshman of the Year.
Her sophomore season at UO was one of record-shattering. Ionescu had 16 double-doubles and 14 20 point games. Additionally she had 13 games of 10+ assists, dishing out a league high 14 on two different occasions. Less than halfway through the season she became the NCAA Women’s all-time leader in triple doubles and currently trails only former BYU men’s player Kyle Collinsworth for the outright NCAA record. She was named Pac12 Player of the Year. Oregon compiled a record 30 wins heading into the NCAA Tournament, claiming revenge on Stanford for the previous year’s conference tournament championship game loss with a 20 point demolition that handed them the conference tournament crown to go with their outright regular season title.
Seemingly having done everything in their power to earn a 1 seed in the NCAAs, Oregon nabbed a 2 seed but still seemed to have a favorable path to its first ever Women’s Final Four. After bulldozing their way through the first three rounds however, they were unceremoniously bounced by a more experienced Notre Dame squad in the Elite Eight. However, that marked the second straight year they had advanced that far after previously never reaching that point.
With March Madness concluded, Ionescu still had to treat her basketball fever and entered the USA Basketball women’s national 3x3 tournament with teammates Erin Boley, Otiona Gildon, and Ruthy Hebard. Even being unfamiliar with the rules of the tournament Ionescu led the Oregon gals to the championship, going undefeated and corralled tournament MVP honors. This led to Ionescu and her teammates being named as the US team for the 3x3 world cup in the Philippines in June. Despite being the youngest team in the field, they swept their pool, defeating Cup holders Russia along the way.
All this accomplished before Ionescu can even legally purchase a cocktail. It doesn’t appear she’ll be slowing down any time soon and if her consistent success and improvement at each level continues as it has we could very well be in for a very special couple years ahead. Anyone who has watched Ionescu play on a consistent basis can see that she’s clearly on a different level than majority of the other players.
What could we see next? National Player of the Year? All-time NCAA triple-double leader? (looks likely) A Final four appearance? An NCAA championship? Even beyond that, could Ionescu carry this success to the pros? Could we see a perennial WNBA All-Star hailing from UO soon?
All still remains to be seen but in Ionescu’s case it seems reasonable to employ an old cliché’; the sky’s the limit.