Not even the challenges of a virtual draft could get in the way of this pick. The Liberty completed the no-brainer Friday night and selected Oregon superstar point guard Sabrina Ionescu with the first-overall pick of the WNBA Draft, marking what could turn out to be a franchise-altering day for the organization. Ionescu, whose play …
Not even the challenges of a virtual draft could get in the way of this pick.
The Liberty completed the no-brainer Friday night and selected Oregon superstar point guard Sabrina Ionescu with the first-overall pick of the WNBA Draft, marking what could turn out to be a franchise-altering day for the organization.
Ionescu, whose play and competitive fire enthralled a fanbase that grew to include the likes of Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry and LeBron James, rewrote the NCAA record book for men and women during her dominant college career. The 5-foot-11 pick-and-roll specialist finished her four-year career with 2,562 points, 1,091 assists and 1,040 rebounds — the first-ever player to surpass 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds — while setting a new standard with 26 career triple-doubles.
After the two-time national player of the year left her mark on Oregon and the college game, Ionescu will have the chance to do the same for the Liberty and WNBA.
“I think it’s perfect, because she’s a star and New York’s a city that likes its stars,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves told The Post in the leadup to the draft. “She’s also going to have to produce. She’s done it at the collegiate level on that kind of stage with those kind of expectations and pressure. There’s gonna be some pressure to produce results, in terms of victories and then stats. But she’s played with a lot of pressure. She’s had a lot of people that have wanted her to fail and she just always seems to be successful.
“Whatever she does on the court, in production, is going to pale in comparison to what she’ll give that organization to start developing their culture. I’ve talked with [Liberty GM] Jonathan [Kolb] and [head coach] Walt [Hopkins] several times and I know that they’re really looking forward to having a really strong organization. With the move over to Barclays, I think it’s natural. I think it’s going to be a match made in heaven.”
The Liberty have gone 17-51 over the last two seasons, which helped them win the draft lottery last September. They have a new head coach in Hopkins and, whenever the season begins considering the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, will start playing their home games at Barclays Center. They also traded away their most established star, Tina Charles, on Wednesday for two players and more draft picks Friday night.
Now, the blank canvas awaits for Ionescu to take over.
“We’re excited to have someone with her caliber and, most importantly, her character in our league,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said on a conference call Friday. “It’s exciting for New York.”
Ionescu, who is being courted by Nike, Under Armour and Puma for an endorsement deal, is the Liberty’s first No. 1 pick in franchise history.