Sabrina Ionescu shocked the basketball world 11 months ago when she opted not to enter last year's WNBA draft and instead return for her senior season with the Oregon Ducks.
Through three years, Ionescu had established herself as an elite player. But when the Ducks fell to eventual national champion Baylor in the Final Four, Ionescu decided she and her team had "unfinished business," as she wrote in a Players' Tribune article announcing her comeback.
After Monday, Ionescu is the only player, man or woman, in the history of college basketball with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. She set that record hours after eulogizing her mentor, Kobe Bryant, and her mentee, Gianna Bryant.
Learn more about Ionescu below.
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Sabrina Ionescu: Triple-double machine
Ionescu grew up the daughter of Romanian immigrants in northern California and attended Miramonte High School, where she was a four-year varsity player.
She played for USA Basketball and won gold medals at the 2013 U16 FIBA Americas Championships in Mexico and the 2014 U17 FIBA World Champions in the Czech Republic to pop on college coaches' radars and was a consensus top five recruit.
Ionescu considered attending Texas and Washington, but chose Oregon — which didn't have much of a women's basketball pedigree prior to her arrival. She earned McDonald's All-America Game MVP honors after a 25-point, 10-rebound performance.
Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu is the only player, man or woman, in the history of college basketball with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. (Photo: Soobum Im, USA TODAY Sports)
That began an illustrious college career pocked with triple-doubles. Ionescu owns the most triple-doubles in college basketball history with 26. Kyle Collinsworth of BYU is second with 12, and no women's player has more than nine.
Ionescu was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2017 and was the USBWA National Freshman of the Year. She upped the ante the next year, helping the Ducks to their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and earned the first of her two Pac-12 Player of the Year awards.
Following the 2019 season, Ionescu won the Naismith Award as the top female player in college basketball — a trophy she will almost certainly take home again in 2020.
Sabrina Ionescu's relationship with Kobe, Gianna Bryant
Ionescu's mentality can best be described as intense, and it endeared her to Bryant, who took the youth team he coached (led by Gianna) to watch a Ducks game in January 2019.
From there, the two communicated frequently. He broke down her highlights for a segment on his ESPN+ show. Twice over the summer, she helped coach a few of the Mambas' games.
2.24.20= 2k 1k 1k
2+24=26 total triple doubles
8=total triple doubles this season so far
Your presence is felt. Just like we talked about… I HEAR YOU???
Thank you KB. pic.twitter.com/T7IRdXsRSa
On Monday, Ionescu followed Diana Taurasi and delivered a heartfelt eulogy, saying she still texts Kobe.
"Thank you for everything. The rest is for you. Rest easy my guy," one text read.
"The texts go through but no response," she said. "It still feels like he's there on the other end. That the next time I pick up my phone, he would hit me back. … It's so strange to describe him or Gigi in the past tense. You don't get used to that. No one teaches you that about grief.
"If I represtented the present of the women's game, Gig was the future, and Kobe knew it."
NBA players are Sabrina Ionescu's biggest fans
Bryant wasn't the only NBA player to notice Ionescu's greatness.
In January, after one of her many patented triple-doubles, LeBron James tweeted about Ionescu's prowess on the court.
She’s so DOPE!! Keep going Queen Sabrina! ????❤️? https://t.co/PjGhOe7LaT
Steph Curry and his daughters Riley and Ryan recently took in a Ducks game. Ionescu met Curry and took a photo with the family.
Sabrina Ionescu and the WNBA
Ionescu was in consideration to be the WNBA's top pick last year, which made her decision to return for her senior year somewhat surprising.
The New York Liberty are on the clock with the No. 1 selection in the WNBA Draft on April 10. Barring something dramatic, Ionescu will head to the Big Apple.
But first, she has some unfinished business to address.
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