Ionescu Ends A College Career for the History Books

by Alex Mitchell

Why Sabrina Ionescu’s college career might be the best ever

Daily Mail

Sabrina Ionescu pays homage to mentor and Laker legend Kobe Bryant

What if someone told you, the greatest college basketball player to ever live was not nicknamed MJ, never played a game in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, or even that their pronouns are not he, him or his. She holds the NCAA record for most triple-doubles in a college career with 26, 14 more than the next best. She is also the first-ever man or woman to have at least 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in a college career. Sabrina Ionescu is a name that should be known by every basketball fan across the world: young or old, male or female, player or spectator. Everyone should know her name.

Coming from Walnut Creek, California, Sabrina Ionescu has always been a competitor. Whether it was playing against her twin brother Eddy in a nearby park or hitting big shots and making winning plays in front of thousands of watchers, Sabrina competed. “She wouldn’t back down from anything, and he [her brother, Eddy] would not back down from anything” her father Dan explained in an ESPN interview. “If we really got into it there would be blood, someone would cry, there'd be fights, it’d be pretty intense”. After the Ducks fell short of winning the National Championship in 2019, Sabrina had 24 hours to declare for the WNBA draft. For Ionescu, it was a decision between the opportunity of possibly being the first pick in the WNBA draft and having the chance to be paid, or returning to school to try to avenge the Ducks devastating loss in the Final Four. Despite having the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream, “I know that her competitive mentality was telling her to stay” Eddy told ESPN. Sure enough, she decided to stay. When asked about how her brother shaped the player she is today, Ionescu said, “He didn’t take it easy on me regardless if I was a girl, if I was smaller. He tried to do everything he could to win and I did too. I don’t think I would be half the person I am today if it wasn’t for him.”

Earlier this month SportsCenter and ESPN named Michael Jordan the greatest college basketball player of all-time. Although Jordan is without question an all-time great in both his college and NBA career, the numbers don’t lie. In comparing their entire collegiate careers Ionescu averaged more minutes per game, a better free throw percentage, more assists and rebounds per game and garnered almost 40 more career steals.

Another player who is seldom talked about in this conversation, but had incredible collegiate stats and is continuing her greatness in the WNBA, is Breanna Stewart. During her 4-year career at UConn, Stewart won 4 national championships, 4 final four most outstanding player awards and 3 national player of the year awards. Yet, in many categories, Ionescu has produced better statistics than Stewart. Such as minutes per game, 3-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists per game, points per game and total steals. Putting together a career of such to only lack one national player of the year award is very impressive. Despite the lack of national championships, Ionescu put together one of the greatest collegiate basketball careers of all-time.

One of Sabrina’s many mentors and the late all-time great Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant would’ve been proud of the way Sabrina capped off her career. He would’ve been even more proud of her decision to face her failures head-on and return for her senior season. Her competitive toughness, fearless dedication and desire to win at the highest level aligns perfectly with Kobe’s mindset, “Mamba Mentality”. Despite her inability to bring back a championship to Oregon due to unforeseeable circumstances, Oregon was in prime position to make another deep run into the tournament and a national champion contender. On the day of Kobe’s funeral, 2/24/20, Sabrina Ionescu not only attended and spoke at the funeral; later that night she became the first player in D-1 men or women’s college basketball history to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. During her speech earlier that day, Sabrina said, “If I represented the present of the women's game, Gigi [Bryant] was the future”. Despite all the unknowns about whether Gianna Bryant would’ve lived up to become the next Sabrina Ionescu, one thing is for sure, the women’s game is in great hands for the foreseeable future with Sabrina Ionescu leading the way.