Exactly 24 hours after the worst loss of her basketball career, Sabrina Ionescu had to make a decision that would forever alter the rest of her life.
Would she choose the WNBA and the money (even if mediocre at best), but more importantly all the sponsors (hello, Nike) that come with being one of the best to play the game? Or would Ionescu return to Oregon for her senior season, the memory of an opportunity lost driving her at a chance of immortality?
Just after 6 p.m. Saturday evening, Ionescu wrote a letter on the Player’s Tribune detailing her decision-making to return to Oregon for the 2019-2020 season, citing “unfinished business” as the main culprit for her reasoning to stay in Eugene.
“Yes, this has been an incredible journey. But no, this is NOT as good as it gets. Because those people saying we’ve peaked — they don’t know this program and they don’t know me. And they don’t know the mission we’re on, together, as a group. The mission that we’ve been on,” Ionescu wrote. “I came to the University of Oregon as a freshman in 2016-2017. We made the Elite Eight (and lost big). I came back to the University of Oregon as a sophomore in 2017-2018. We made the Elite Eight (and lost close). I came back to the University of Oregon as a junior in 2018-2019. We made the Final Four. And now I couldn’t be happier to announce that I’m coming back to the University of Oregon for the 2019-2020 basketball season. I won’t predict exactly how far we’re going to go… but I’ll just say this. We have unfinished business.”
Despite having an iconic following in women’s athletics, Ionescu (who’s been talked about by Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Shea Serrano) has the chance to go down as the greatest women’s college basketball player ever with this decision.
This past season alone, she repeated as the winner of the Nancy Lieberman award for point guard of the year, won the WBCA’s Wade Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding player and was named an AP All-American.
Ionescu’s decision to spurn the WNBA for another year — where she was most likely to be the No. 1 overall pick — has given Oregon a legitimate chance at a national championship next season. The NCAA career leader in triple-doubles with 18, Ionescu averaged 19.9 points, 8.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds this past season.
With the return of three other starters, including former all-American Ruthy Hebard and breakout sophomore Satou Sabally, the Ducks should begin next season as the No. 1 team in the nation. Oregon will look to capitalize on the momentum built this past season and achieve something never done before in program history; win a national championship.
Like Ionescu said… “Ducks Nation — I’ll see you next year. Let’s see some packed houses. Kobe — I’ll see you next year, too. Hope you keep watching. And WNBA — I’ll see you soon. Real soon, I promise. Just have some business to take care of first.”