When New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu rolled her ankle on Friday night in a game against the Atlanta Dream, basketball fans held their breath as the 2020 No. 1 pick was carried off and didn’t return to the game.
Before she stepped on the foot of Atlanta's Betnijah Laney while bringing the ball up the court in the second quarter leading to the injury, the 22-year-old was off to a good start with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
With the injury since revealed to be a Grade 3 ankle sprain where she will likely miss a month or more of action, Ionescu will have to wait before continuing what was an already promising start to her WNBA career.
After a decorated four-year career at the University of Oregon, Ionescu came into the WNBA as one of its most hyped rookies in league history. And the attention is warranted.
She became the first NCAA Division I basketball player (man or woman) to record 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in a career. Ionescu also stands as the NCAA’s all-time career leader in triple-doubles with 26. She averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists in her senior season.
The Liberty came into the season with the youngest roster in the league, including seven rookies. They are 0-4 to start the year and have had their fair share of growing pains as a rebuilding squad, including having Canadian Kia Nurse hobbled early on with an ankle sprain of her own.
Without Ionescu, the Liberty lost by 29 in Sunday’s match against Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury.
Despite being just three games into her professional career, Ionescu has already become one of the league’s most recognizable faces and has been a well-known name since her days at Oregon.
She had the late Kobe Bryant in her corner and currently has Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry as a mentor. In April, less than an hour after being drafted first overall by the Liberty, Ionescu’s jersey had already sold out on the WNBA’s team store.
In her professional debut against a stacked Seattle Storm squad, Ionescu recorded 12 points, six rebounds and four assists, but she had her struggles, shooting 4-of-17 overall and missed all eight of her 3-point shots. It was far from her best performance but the struggles wouldn’t last long.
Ionescu came alive in her second game, when she dropped 33 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in a 93-80 loss to the Dallas Wings. She also finished 11-of-20 from the field and was 6-of-10 from the three-point line. Dominant at both ends of the floor, it was the kind of game that Ionescu is famous for.
It’s disappointing for both Liberty fans and basketball fans to see someone of Ionescu’s calibre go down with a serious injury, especially so early on in the season. Coming off a big game where she demonstrated her immense potential, the Liberty will have to make do without one of their best players while the WNBA is robbed of having their best prospect in years on the court.