Today, her name is synonymous with the term “triple-double” in the basketball world.
After coming out of the shadow and into her own right as a mind-blowing basketball talent during her college years, she was on her way to snagging an NCAA title this year as the star player for the Oregon Ducks. When she was prompted to apply for entry to the WNBA, she even deferred the opportunity – wanting to finish what she started with the Ducks first.
Unfortunately, rising concerns around the recent novel Coronavirus outbreak just cost Sabrina the chance she was counting on. The NCAA has canceled all of its foreseeable tournaments, and Ionescu will have to wait another year to try for the WNBA, with no guarantees.
But she has the numbers to make it happen, and the confidence of her coaches, teammates, fans, and of course, her entire family who have seen her talent from day 1.
It all started when she was a kid, playing basketball with her similarly talented brothers – one of them being her twin, Eddy. Her parents say they were inseparable, and unstoppably competitive. In an interview with ESPN, she and her family all dished on the dynamic growing up:
Sabrina: We’re built-in best friends. Being able to grow up, have the same friends, play the same sports and do everything together is really fun. We were always so competitive, and I think it’s ’cause we were the same age. Everything was fair game.
Eddy: We competed in everything. Whether it was our chores, whether it was our homework, whether it was eating dinner, racing to whoever can get in bed first. [But] it was always kind of on the basketball court when we fought.
Sabrina: If we really, really got into it, there’d be blood. Someone would cry. There’d be fights. It’d be pretty intense. If he won, we’d play again. Regardless, if I had to be home for dinner at 8, we’d play ’til 9, until I would win, and then I’d be like, “All right, we can go home now.”
Dan (their father): She will not back down from anything, and he will not back down from anything. In middle school, they had no girls team to speak of, but they had a boys team. So Sabrina always kept her shoes with her when we went to Eddy’s games.
Sabrina and Eddy both credit her twin with recognizing her talent, and pushing her past her comfort zone to hone it.
Sabrina: The fact that I had to fight for every rebound, because he wasn’t going to give me anything easy, is kind of what I translate to my game now. I try to score, and try to rebound and pass, and just do everything that I can to help the team. And he definitely helped me with that, growing up.
Eddy: The little dirty plays that some basketball players do, tugging on your shorts, whispering in your ear some trash talk, tripping you while you walk by — I would just get under Sabrina’s skin, just because I didn’t feel like she had enough experience with that yet.
Thanks to his faith in her and his own skills to practice again, a basketball prodigy was created.
Sabrina felt like sticking around for the NCAA was the right thing to do at the time, but now that everything is up in the air, we’re all rooting for her to be front in center in the world of women’s basketball when the sports show goes on once more.