Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

Just four years ago, Breanna Stewart stepped on stage as she heard her name called as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft. 

Stewart grew up in New York, watched her first WNBA game at the Garden, played college basketball at UConn, and then she was headed to Seattle for a first time. 

In a way, Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu will cross paths with Stewart on Friday. The California native, who played at Oregon, will join the illustrious club of No. 1 picks in the WNBA when she is selected by the New York Liberty.

Stewart has some welcomed advice for Ionescu, who is likely headed to New York, unless something unexpected happens on draft night. 

“Let the city welcome you,” Stewart said in a video via ESPN. “You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. People will want to show you around, tell you the best non-tourists spots and restaurants.”

Stewart recognizes Ionescu’s journey, while similar, is also a lot different than her own. 

Ionescu is grieving the loss of longtime friend and mentor Kobe Bryant after his passing. She’s also leaving Oregon with “unfinished business.” The triple-double-queen was robbed of her shot at a NCAA championship title after the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.  

You’re in a different situation now because we are now forced to embrace the unknown as we all navigate the pandemic, it’s hard to look at any positives when so much has been taken away.

 

It’s hard to even imagine the heartbreak. You’ve handled it with grace.

Stewart also detailed the start of her first few years with the Storm. From rupturing her Achilles and finding her identity outside of basketball to learning from the WNBA’s oldest active player, her Storm teammate Sue Bird.

“I see Sue's always busting her ass, and I need to do that, too, even more,” Stewart said. “She's already made a name for herself, but she's diligent about excellence. It has sustained her.”

“That's ultimately what it's about. You're a rookie, so you have to strike that right balance between confidence and sponge, but know that, ultimately, it's about doing the work. Show up and work hard and you earn respect.”

On Friday, Ionescu will join an exclusive club in the world of sports as the No. 1 pick. She’ll be in good company, too. 

Stewart knows Ionescu will want to live up to the standards of those who came before her, but for now, it’s all about living in the moment. You only get drafted once, and Ionescu has earned it. 
“This week, your dream is going to come true,” Stewart said, “And seeing it happen might just be what inspires a little girl to go out and try to break your records.

“She would honor all of us by doing it.”

Be sure to check out our Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and Oregon women’s head coach Kelly Graves: