NCAA basketball history has been rewritten. And its author’s name is Sabrina Ionescu. On February 24th, 2020, the 5’11 Mighty Ducks guard became the first player, male or female, to break 2000 career points, 1000 career assists, and 1000 career rebounds.
Ionescu is in her fourth and final year at Oregon, a year nobody knew for sure whether or not she would play. After the team’s 2019 Final Four loss to Baylor, many rightfully expected her to declare for the draft given her proven skill set. But, as she credits her teammates knowing before even she did, the star returned for one more round of Mighty Ducks basketball, in attempts to complete coach Graves vision of four in four (four Final Four appearances in four years).
Her record comes in the same season where she became the first female college-player to have her jersey sold on Nike’s website after demands soared. It’s no wonder why Nike caved into the decision when you look at her fan base: Steph Curry and his two daughters (who were on hand for her record night) and the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant, whose celebration of life service Ionescu spoke at mere hours before taking to the court.
Kobe Bryant had been a mentor and friend to Ionescu, often inviting her to speak to his youth teams. Ionescu remarked on how much it meant to her to get her 1000th rebound on 2/24, for Kobe and Gigi.
There is little to no doubt that Ionescu will go first overall in this year’s WNBA draft, a pick owned by the New York Liberty, the same team Canadian-national Kia Nurse plays for. Regardless of where Ionescu ends up, the WNBA is on the verge of getting one of the most well-suited ambassadors women’s sports could hope for.
Bryant had always been outspoken about his support for the WNBA, and Scarina Ionescu seems poised to take over his legacy and make the world pay attention to the women’s sports scene.
Originally Published in Bandersnatch Vol.49 Issue 10 on February 26th, 2020