Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu to return for senior season

Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) dribbles the ball, during a women's Final Four NCAA college basketball semifinal tournament game against Baylor, Friday, April 5, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu announced in The Players' Tribune on Saturday that she will return to Oregon for her senior season. (AP/Chris O'Meara)

Sabrina Ionescu isn’t done just yet.

The Oregon Ducks star, a favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft this year, announced that she will be returning to Oregon for her senior season on Saturday night in The Players’ Tribune.

“Yes, this has been an incredible journey. But no, this is NOT as good as it gets,” Ionescu wrote. “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 is eligible for the draft, as she’ll turn 22 this year, and was listed as the No. 1 overall pick in Mechelle Voepel’s latest mock draft on ESPN. After the year, and career, she’s had at Oregon, it’s easy to understand why.

The three-time All-American won her second-straight Nancy Lieberman award, given to the best point guard each year, this week, and won the Wade Trophy — which is given to the nation’s top player by the WBCA. She averaged 19.9 points, 8.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds this season, and holds the NCAA record for the most career triple-doubles with 18.

While she’s more than capable of making the jump to the WNBA, Ionescu is holding off.

The Ducks’ 72-67 loss to Baylor in the Final Four on Friday, in which she dropped 18 points, six assists and four rebounds, was “agonizing,” she said. Her return next season, along with three other starters from this year’s team, puts Oregon in prime position to avenge that loss — something she thinks can take the program to a different level.

“We have unfinished business. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Ionescu wrote. “My teammates and I, our coaches, our fans, this program — we’re not going on a ‘run,’ you know what I mean? We’re not doing one of those things where, like, a team appears out of the blue, on the backs of a few good players, and then makes some noise for a season or two before heading back underground. Nah. This isn’t that.

“We’re building something here in Eugene. We’re building something — together — that’s going to last for a long time after we’ve all graduated.”

Ionescu’s letter started with a touching story of the moment when she learned that NBA legend Kobe Bryant published a video on ESPN breaking down her game — which she then watched “a billion times.”

Though she was shocked and honored that Bryant had taken notice of her game, Ionescu said she realized something when watching it again on her way home after the Baylor loss.

“Kobe scouting me that well? Mamba having me figured out? That’s not a diss. What that was is a challenge,” Ionescu wrote. “That’s Kobe saying to me, I think, ‘OK, I SEE YOU. I see you, and I like what you’re showing me. But now you’ve got to show me something extra. Now it’s time for you to take this All-American game, this Final Four game, this hot prospect game, this Oregon women’s basketball program-leading game ... and take it to the next, next level. The level that no one sees coming. That’s how you go from good to great. That’s how you go from contender to champion.’

“And I think I understand that now.”

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