Women's basketball: Sabrina Ionescu's season already historic for Oregon Ducks
EUGENE -- San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills became the latest to give a public nod to Sabrina Ionescu, tweeting "it's been a treat" to watch the Oregon guard's standout freshman season unfold.
It was one of several notifications to pop into Ionescu's cellphone over the past few days, after she recorded her fourth triple-double of the season in an upset of No. 18 UCLA and took both the Pac-12 Player and Freshman of the Week honors along with the USBWA National Player of the Week Award. She's the frontrunner for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (teammate Ruthy Hebard is another contender) and a big reason why Oregon is in prime position to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005 heading into this weekend's trip to Utah and Colorado.
It's been a treat watching @sabrina_i sweeps hoop this year! PAC-12 "Player of the Week" & "Freshman of the Week" pic.twitter.com/IFHkJ2aZe4— Patrick Mills (@Patty_Mills) February 14, 2017
Yet Ionescu barely even notices when she hits double figures in points, rebounds and assists.
"I probably averaged (a triple-double) almost every game in high school," Ionescu said. "And it didn't really matter to me. I don't really look at it."
It's not a boastful statement. Just a fact, as Ionescu averaged 25.3 points, 8.8 assists and 7.6 rebounds as a senior at Miramonte High School in Walnut Creek, California as a top-10 national recruit.
But her debut season is historic, as no other freshman in NCAA history has ever recorded four triple-doubles. She's also already broken Bev Smith's Oregon record for career triple-doubles, is one shy of the Pac-12 mark set by Nicole Powell -- who is now an assistant coach at Oregon -- and is two away from the NCAA single-season record.
On the season, Ionescu ranks second in the Pac-12 in assists (5.73 per game) and 10th in rebounding (7.1 per game) while averaging 13.9 points per game. And Ducks coach Kelly Graves says Ionescu is "still getting her feet under her" after missing five games with a broken thumb on her shooting hand.
Ionescu called sitting out "horrible," but Graves saw the makings of a future coach, as she consistently huddled up her teammates for extra words of wisdom during timeouts.
"She could just as easily have kicked me to the side and coached the team just as well," Graves said with a grin.
Since returning to action, Ionescu has hit the game-winning shot at California to complete a stunning comeback by the Ducks. She tallied a triple-double against Utah. She's shooting nearly 48 percent from the floor (26 of 58), about seven points above her season average, over her last five games.
But what most impressed Graves was the 20 defensive rebounds Ionescu pulled down over last weekend's sweep of the Los Angeles schools.
"Against those front lines, as athletic and deep as those two teams are," Graves said. "She's not the tallest kid (at 5-foot-10). She's not the most athletic. She's certainly not the biggest and strongest, but she just goes and gets it and she just has an innate ability to do that."
Hence the tweet from Mills, who played college ball at St. Mary's near Ionescu's hometown and has shot her a note on the social media platform before.
Perhaps a message from John Stockton, Ionescu's favorite player, would draw more outward excitement. And perhaps that could be arranged by Graves, who got to know Stockton while the coach at Gonzaga.
Does Graves see similarities between Stockton's and Ionescu's game? The coach quipped Ionescu needs to learn to use ball screens better. And her shorts are a little too long.
But they share the same level of competitiveness, Graves said. Not to mention, an ability to impact the game all over the floor.
"I don't know if there's a more versatile player anywhere in the country," Graves said. "She's doing it all, and this is kind of who we thought we were getting. She's certainly deserved all the attention she gets."
This article is written by Gina Mizell from The Oregonian and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.