Ionescu, Oregon Women’s Hoops Gave Fans One Heckuva Ride

Jordan Ingram Editorials

As of April 17, former Oregon Ducks women’s basketball superstar Sabrina Ionescu will play in the WNBA for the New York Liberty.

Ionescu, who finished her career with the Ducks leading the NCAA (both women and men) with 26 career triple-doubles, was selected as the No. 1 overall draft pick, yet another first for the school’s program. Not surprisingly, Ionescu’s seafoam green Liberty jersey was sold out within one hour of being drafted.

Yes, even Ionescu’s departure broke records.

As Ducks fans, we all knew the day would come when the greatest basketball player to ever wear an Oregon jersey (yes, I said it) eventually left Eugene for the professional game. It was only inevitable that the first player in NCAA basketball history (again, both women and men) to reach the 2,000-1,000-1,000 mark in points (2,562), rebounds (1,040) and assists (1,091) would play in the WNBA.

And I’d be talking out of school if I didn’t mention that Ionescu was surrounded by amazing teammates. Oregon Ducks junior Satou Sabally, who chose to forgo her senior year at Oregon, was selected No. 2 overall in the WNBA draft by the Dallas Wings, and Oregon senior Ruthy Hebard went No. 8 overall to the Chicago Sky.

Ionescu and Sabally being taken 1-2 was just the fourth time in WNBA draft history that the top two picks were selected from the same program.

Oregon players Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally, and Ruthy Hebard were all selected in the top eight of the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Honestly, I’m not sure any team could have stopped these players from winning a national championship for the Ducks. Not South Carolina. Nobody.

But it seemed like Ionescu, in particular, was on a mission, which only crystallized following the tragic deaths of her friend, supporter and mentor, Kobe Bryant, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, in a helicopter crash in the Calabasas hills in January.

“This season’s for him,” Ionescu told ESPN, after scoring 19 points and leading the No. 4 Ducks to a 66-57 victory over the Beavers.

You could see it in her eyes that nothing less than a national championship would be good enough.

And just like that — she’s gone.

No national championship. No Final Four in San Antonio. No net-cutting, trophy-hoisting, or halfcourt celebration with tears of joy. The coronavirus robbed Ionescu, Hebard and every other senior athlete across the country of the opportunity to achieve their lifelong goals.

Oregon fans will never forget No. 20.

And it stole the opportunity for every sports fan to bear witness to those dreams.

Even worse,  due to the nationwide ban on mass gatherings, Ducks fans couldn’t even say goodbye and thank Ionescu, Sabally and Hebard for the memories.

But that’s in the past now. Ionescu has entered a new stage of her life and joins the best basketball players on the planet.

I’m really excited for the future — to watch Ionescu make dazzling passes, hustle for rebounds and strike daggers from beyond the arc in the WNBA.

And for the Ducks, the future is SO BRIGHT! Oregon head coach Kelly Graves has brought in five McDonald’s All-Americans for the upcoming 2020-21 season, including Taylor Bigby, Angela Dugalic, Maddie Scherr, Kylee Watson and Te-Hina Paopao. 

One day, the coronavirus pandemic will be over. And we will flock to see a new group of Ducks vie for a national women’s basketball title.

In the meantime, I just wanted to say thank you, Sabrina. Thank you, Satou. Thank you, Ruthy. That was one heckuva ride.

Jordan Ingram
San Diego, CA
                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Top photo from Twitter


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