You Need to Know This Upcoming Star of the Basketball Court

The Oregon combo guard is spending another year in Eugene. Here’s everything you need to know about her ascent.

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Last Friday night, the on-fire Oregon Ducks took eventual champion Baylor down to the wire in the NCAA Women’s Semifinal. While the Lady Bears were longer and quicker than the Ducks, Oregon looked capable of the upset until late in the fourth quarter, when a cold snap struck at the worst possible time. Baylor prevailed and went on to beat Notre Dame, in another great game, on Sunday night for the National Championship.

While Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu didn’t end up making the All-Tournament team, she became the sport’s breakout star in 2019. Just a junior, Ionescu broke the NCAA’s record for career triple-doubles in February, her 13 beating out former Brigham Young University star Kyle Collinsworth’s 12. (Collinsworth was a four-year player, and Ionescu now has 18.) She’s a magnetic force on the court, and not just because she’s an awesome team’s primary playmaker and a deadly shooter; she oozesattitude on the floor and backs it up. Check out the death stare Ionescu gives her defender, DiDi Richards, after this three-point-and-one play in the Final Four:

The California-raised Ionescu arrived at Oregon as a prized prospect, ranked No. 4 in her high school class; she also won MVP honors at the McDonald’s All-American game. Almost every scouting report you can find for her mentions the word“competitive,” and that’s something she absolutely carried to the next level. Her first triple-double happened seven games into her freshman year, and Ionescu hasn’t let up since. She shot 42 percent from three this year, an incredible number given her volume and offensive workload. Watching her string her team together is mesmerizing, and to say that Ionescu is “unafraid of the moment” would be the understatement of the millennium. 

The basketball world, at large, has taken notice. Recently, Ionescu was featured on Kobe Bryant’s ESPN+ series Detail, where Bryant broke down Ionescu’s game at a granular level. She has also gotten dap from Steph Curry and LeBron James. If she were to enter the WNBA draft, she’d almost certainly be the No. 1 pick

Instead, she’s going to return to Oregon and add to that triple-doubles record, as revealed in an entertaining, energizing Players’Tribune essay. I’d say you’re going to want an Oregon jersey, but the truth is that you’re going to need one. Ionescu is hoping to give the Final Four one last shot. In a college hoops landscape with fewer and fewer opportunities for appointment viewing, Ionescu’s senior year is something sports fans have to witness. 

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