Strange times are upon us. None of us knew this was coming. Tom Brady has left the New England Patriots.
In all seriousness, I bid a forlorn farewell two weeks ago to the University of Oregon campus for the time being, with no thought as to how serious the circumstances would devolve to due to COVID-19. I never would have imagined that I would find myself lying awake in the early hours of the morning craving dorm food while my confused brain tries to make sense of the lack of construction noise or general dorm hall chaos.
I miss Eugene, I miss live sports, and I miss my Ducks.
Anyways, Sabrina Ionescu. Ionescu faced a fork in the road at the end of her junior year in 2019; to enter the WNBA draft, where she was predicted to be the number one pick, likely having ended up with the Las Vegas Aces, or to finish her senior year at Oregon, taking one last shot at a National Championship for the Ducks.
Regardless of the suspension of March Madness, Sabrina Ionescu had arguably one of the most decorated collegiate athletic careers in not only Oregon history, but NCAA basketball history, and it is truly unfortunate that her senior season has had to end the way it has.
In retrospect, it’s very easy to say that Ionescu made the wrong decision coming back for one last dance. Yes, the NCAA has stated that athletic eligibility will be granted due to the unusual circumstances, but this doesn’t really help the seniors who are ready to graduate, and especially not the athletes who have already been considering professional careers in lieu of continuing at a collegiate level.
However, I see the unfortunate end of Ionescu’s time at Oregon as the career statistic that is most meaningful. It defines her as more than an athlete.
Being split between a multimillion dollar contract (playing the sport you love at the highest level), and returning for a final season at your to try and secure a National Championship is an absurdly difficult decision to make. Regardless, Ionescu decided to finish off her NCAA career on a high note, and I wholeheartedly think she made the right decision.
In her senior season alone, Sabrina lead the Ducks to a 31-2 record, recorded her 26th career triple-double, and even pulled off a riveting victory against Team USA. Ionescu has demonstrated that her time at Oregon has been more than a stepping-stone in her career; it has been an essential part of her development as an athlete, and as an individual. Sabrina can confidently move forward with her bright future with no regrets, and despite the unforeseeable circumstances, she finished off her collegiate career strong.
Poised to go No. 1 in the draft in April, Ionescu will almost certainly join the New York Liberty, playing out of Brooklyn.
In a time where the future of athletics are somewhat uncertain, it is important to remember that this is the beginning of an era, not the end. The wave of Oregon success has marked a high-water line in recent history, and the support from us Ducks fans will ensure that the wave continues to rise, rather than crest and fall crashing back into the sea.
Top Photo by Tom Corno
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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