“Ducks Nation — I’ll see you next year. Let’s see some packed houses. Kobe — I’ll see you next year, too. Hope you keep watching. And WNBA — I’ll see you soon. Real soon, I promise. Just have some business to take care of first.”
This was the message to Duck fans 218 days ago from Sabrina Ionescu.
The basketball phenom decided to forgo the 2019 WNBA Draft (as the projected No. 1 overall pick) and return to Oregon for her senior year.
That unfinished business? Perhaps a redemption tour all the way to the NCAA National Championship after a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four last year. But let’s not get too far ahead.
Ionescu dropped 30 points, seven assists and four rebounds over the best in the world. In what felt like a ceremonial passing of the torch from “GOATS” Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi to the next generation of talent, Ionescu absolutely balled out in the spotlight.
From one G.O.A.T. to the next:
“My favorite part about her game right now is just her competitiveness,” said Bird on Ionescu. “She’s very relentless. Even when you think you have her stopped, she keeps coming at you. Those are things you can’t always teach. So as the year goes on, people are going to talk about ‘Can she shoot? Can she do this? Is she good enough for that?’ Who cares. If you’re competitive, that can overcome a lot. And for her, you can’t teach those things and she’s got them.”
High praise for Ionescu coming from one of the very best to ever play the game.
Ionescu and the Ducks have a big season ahead. A preseason No. 1 ranking, a roster loaded with talent from top to bottom, an established fan base and basketball culture in Eugene, and of course, a competitive nature.
The WNBA is waiting. The sponsors will come. A potential shoe deal? Why not! We all know just how dominant Ionescu is and a professional career will begin in due time.
But for now, enjoy the ride.
“All that stuff will be waiting for her. It’s going to come eventually. She needs to just enjoy this ride,” said Bird. “She’s going to want to finish it right. Speaking from someone who won their senior year (UConn, 2001-02), there’s no better feeling than walking off the court a winner. You literally leave with no regrets. Hopefully she has that mindset.”
Oh, we think she does.