As the 2020 WNBA Draft nears, Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu is ready to face her New York Liberty fate at Barclays Center.
Sabrina Ionescu has only been to New York City twice in her life. If destiny comes to pass on Friday night, many, many more visits await.
The record-breaking, award-collecting Oregon guard is the consensus top pick headed into the 2020 WNBA Draft (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). There are few certainties in life, but exceptions have been made across the nation’s mock drafts. Almost all of them expect Ionescu to be chosen by the New York Liberty with the top overall pick.
Ionescu would immediately be seen as a savior upon her potential New York entry. The rebuilding Liberty have gone 17-51 over the past two WNBA seasons and their male compatriots in Brooklyn and Manhattan have failed to fill the void.
Her on-court prowess wowed the nation during her exploits in Eugene. She finished her career with averages of 18.0 points, 7,7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. Ionescu is also far and away the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles in both men and women’s basketball (26).
Ionescu admitted to Maria Marino of SNY that she didn’t know too much about New York, having spent most of her life on the west coast. But the Walnut Creek, California native was undeniably excited by the opportunity presented in the Big Apple.
“I’m definitely, hopefully, excited for that opportunity to play there at Barclays Center,” she said. “The hustle and bustle is something that can be beneficial not only to myself as a person, but as a brand for women’s basketball. So if I get that opportunity, I’ll definitely be excited to use that to the best of my ability.”
The Liberty will play their home games at Barclays Center on a full-time basis after spending the last two years at Westchester County Center.
New York excitement was not contained to Ionescu. Former Liberty star and current ESPN basketball analyst Rebecca Lobo likewise sang Ionescu’s praises in a Monday conference call.
“I think to me she’s a perfect fit for New York,” Lobo said. “There’s an awareness of sports and a sports culture in the city that I think is a little bit different. I think Sabrina is perfectly suited for that, not only her game, which is next level, but her personality, her drive, her will to win. She fits in in high-pressure moments. She lives in them. She craves them. She comes through in them. And there’s nothing bigger than being in New York City.”
Lobo said that had the 2020 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament been staged without interruption, Ionescu would’ve led her Oregon Ducks to victory.
“They had Sabrina. No one else had Sabrina. That’s not to take anything away from South Carolina because they’re an amazing team and they could have obviously won the national championship. But it just felt to me that there was something about Oregon this year and their ability to score and to have the leader, and Sabrina just is a difference-maker, and Oregon is the team that had her.”
The Liberty own four of the first fifteen picks of Friday night’s proceedings. They acquired the ninth and 12th picks from Dallas and Washington, respectively, in a blockbuster trade that sent New York’s all-time leading scorer Tina Charles to the defending champion Mystics.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags