The Rise of Sabrina, the next face of the WNBA

Sabrina Ionescu

A disappointing rookie season, ending in 20 losses for the New York Liberty will be used as inspiration to ignite Sabrina Ionescu’s competitive flame.

After missing the final 19 games of her first season in the big league due to Injury, the former Oregon Duck suffered a grade 3 ankle sprain (the most serious type), which she is now rehabbing for next season after a successful surgery.

Ionescu’s rapid rise to the top tier of the game was quite a story, from battling her twin brother Eddy on the local basketball court to filling the rafters at the University of Oregon.

New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu’s jersey is difficult to come by. Even the behemoth that is Nike could not sufficiently supply the growing demand for No.20’s jersey, which initially sold out six hours after she was drafted to the media capital of the world.

This demand speaks to the new generation of female ballers, led by the likes of Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm. Ionescu’s status as the new Queen of New York is a result of her determination, grit and perseverance.

She was catapulted into the WNBA after a record breaking college career with The University of Oregon Ducks, where she became the first NCAA Division 1 player ever to notch up 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in one season, across male and female competitions.

But the anticipation of her professional career was cut short during her rookie season in the wubble. Ionescu rolled over her left ankle during what was only her third professional game ever versus the Atlanta Dream, with the Liberty eventually losing 78-84. She left to receive treatment after being helped off the court by the Liberty back room staff.

Sabrina scored 10 points versus Atlanta before leaving the court after a sprained ankle. Photo credit: CNN sports

Despite just three games, the 5’11 guard made quite the impression on her team. In her first game, she was matched against the best team in the league – a Seattle Storm roster loaded with the likes of Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Alysha Clark. Ionescu scored 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

In a postgame press conference, she said: “I think I gained confidence in that second quarter and was a little bit more comfortable.”

A new era for the Liberty

Ionescu’s vision and tenacity on the court should make life easier for the Liberty’s Canadian-born All-Star, Kia Nurse, next season. Nurse has previously struggled to find open space but has still managed a career average from the perimeter of 40 percent.

Ionescu and her fellow Liberty rookies, (six of them excluding Sabrina) will hope to add quality to a franchise that has struggled in the past. With no championships in 23 WNBA seasons, Ionescu brings a star quality to her team that brings optimism.

In the 2020 season, the absence of teammate Asia Durr (second pick of the 2019 draft) due to a positive COVID-19 test, was another factor in the Liberty’s poor record this year. Durr was averaging a shade under 10 points per game last year, before a hip injury ended her campaign.

Also, guard Megan Walker, drafted eight spots behind Ionescu from the University of Connecticut Huskies, opted out of this season. With an abundance of young talent on their roster, the Liberty are a team for the future – that is, when their players are actually on the court together.

With record high numbers tuning in to watch the 2020 season, as well as the WNBA draft, and a new salary cap for players, the league will hope to attract more future gems like this guaranteed superstar.