The biggest domino has fallen.
Sabrina Ionescu, a program-defining guard at Oregon widely considered the best available player in the 2019 draft, will be returning to school for the 2019-20 season. A previous version of this article incorrectly said that she would be entering the WNBA Draft.
Ionescu detailed her decision in The Players’ Tribune, in a piece released Saturday night.
“We’re building something here in Eugene,” Ionescu wrote. We’re building something — together — that’s going to last for a long time after we’ve all graduated. From the upperclassmen, who showed me the way — Oti, Maite and Ruthy (and maybe especially Ruthy, who came in together with me and has gone from my roommate, where we gave each other the silent treatment that first year, to my best friend in the world)….. to our awesome underclassmen, Morgan, Nyara, Taylor, Lydia, Erin, Satou….. to our incoming class of freshmen that we already have committed….. to our amazing coaching staff, led by Coach Graves….. to our UNBELIEVABLE FANS who, honestly – y’all have no idea.”
The decision impacts teams from Las Vegas on down, with Bill Laimbeer’s crew holding the top overall pick. Previously, High Post Hoops had projected the Aces to take Teaira McCowan, a 6’7 big who fits Laimbeer’s size-intensive preferences for team building.
That the Aces may well have taken Ionescu anyway speaks to the level of player she is. The 5’10 playmaker does everything one could ask of a guard, from her ability to finish at the rim, to her 42.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc, not to mention an 88.1 percent mark from the free throw line — devastating at all three levels.
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What has always separated Ionescu from her peers is her court vision, though, and the numbers reflect this as well — a 38.5 assist percentage ranked eighth in the country, while her 12.4 turnover percentage is incredibly low for a player who has the ball in her hands as often as Ionescu does.
She is also an exceptional rebounder for her size and position — for instance, her 17.6 defensive rebounding percentage tied her with Hallie Thome, center from Michigan, and just ahead of 6’9 Nancy Mulkey of Rice — and helps explain the 18 triple-doubles, an NCAA record for men or women.
Ionescu returns for an Oregon program, which also returns numerous frontline players from Ruthy Hebard to sharpshooter Erin Boley. Taylor Chavez, a top recruit for Oregon last season, will have another year to learn from the best point guard in college basketball.
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